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MELTDOWN
by Martin Baker
Macmillan, January 2008
400 pages
10.00 GBP
ISBN: 0230530303


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

For those of us who are labouring under the impression that money is dull, Martin Baker will cheerfully rip the shade of deception from our eyes and show how truly exciting the money markets can be.

Samuel (not Sam) Spendlove is an Oxford don possessed of an eidetic memory. He is also just emerging from a failed marriage when he is approached by one of two large, rival publishers and asked to go undercover to work as a research analyst/assistant to a financier in Paris, a city beloved by Spendlove -- but a trader working for the other publisher. The academic agrees, then must break the news to his mentor, Peter Kempis, a man who has been a friend to three generations of Spendloves. Like so many in the tale, Kempis is not quite as he seems on the surface.

Samuel travels to Paris to take up his employment as a trainee assisting Khan, a mysterious but successful figure in finance. He makes a good impression on the trading floor but then strikes up a warmer acquaintance with Kaz, a colleague with whom he wishes to become even better friends because he feels she might be able to gain him access to secrets he needs to cause Khan's downfall. Then Kaz disappears.

Spendlove has already seen that Kaz is very close to another woman, Lauren. She is a beautiful creature, a lawyer, but someone who, quite possibly, would be a rival to Samuel for Kaz's affections.

The narrative is certainly absorbing and I found it far more exciting than some other books falling into the genre of thriller. Just what percentage of the tale might accurately reflect publishing and finance in the real world is possibly a different matter but it gave me more of an idea than I'd previously had of the possibilities inherent in the murky world of high finance.

Just how much influence sex has in driving money is a moot point. Nevertheless, the author has incorporated hefty chunks of that motivator in with all the other adventures that befall the hapless Spendlove.

The characterisation is, to my mind, very well done. Samuel's suffering as a betrayed husband, his willingness to take on a new employment and his excellent ability in the world of finance, given his trick memory, is completely credible. The women, too, are painted beautifully and one could imagine meeting them should the reader mix in such circles in the real world. Perhaps the publishers, with their limitless ambitions and view of the business world as a game, might seem a little exaggerated, but then what, in high finance, does seem plausible to those of us with limited knowledge of the world of money?

Baker is the author of non-fiction as well as fiction. He has, however, promised two more books in a series featuring Samuel Spendlove. I trust the reading public doesn't have to wait too long for a sequel to this financial thriller.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, January 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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