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The Washington Post…[an] ingenious thriller about the ruthless world of high finance…
—Katherine A. Powers
Posted July 8, 2012
The crash of the Wall Street Market ushered in a new era of consciousness of the wrongdoings of those running the U.S. financial system. Fatal flaws came to light, and the American people demanded retribution for the misuse of their money. When the government, in an attempt to hinder a looming economic depression, bailed out large financial institutions, the lives of millions of Americans were instantly changed. There was a large focus on the impact of these events on lower and middle-class citizens, but in "A Fatal Debt", debut author John Gapper creates an imaginative thriller, focusing on a CEO who also saw a drastic change of life after the financial crash.
Harry Shapiro had it all. A high profile position as owner and president of a top financial institution at the heart of Wall Street provided him with the luxurious lifestyle most people can only dream of. Unfortunately, the combination of one sour deal, in this case the purchase of a smaller, struggling company, and the market crash left a lasting mark on Shapiro's life. After a public hearing finds Shapiro at fault for the collapse of his company, the once confident financier is left jobless and depressed.
This is how Ben Cowper, a young psychiatrist at New York's Episcopal Hospital finds Shapiro. When Harry's wife discovers her husband in his study, clutching a handgun, she immediately brings him to the hospital. After a short assessment of the man, Ben believes that Shapiro is suicidal and that he should be kept in the hospital for further evaluation. But Harry will have no part of this diagnosis. At the encouragement of the hospital, which received generous donations from the Shapiro family, Ben decides to release Harry from the psych ward and to treat Harry at his home.
After a chat with Harry, Ben feels that he is making some progress. Shapiro seems content with his situation, and willing to work with Ben. A few days later, Ben is shocked to learn of a fatal shooting in the Shapiro's mansion. With the profile of Shapiro's psychiatric condition suddenly raised, Ben finds himself inside a murder investigation that could lead loss of his job, medical license, and even his life.
Gapper has created an edge of your seat thriller that grabs you from the very beginning. Drawing on the events surrounding the market crash, he introduces fascinating characters into the high-stakes world of Wall Street. Despite losing a bit of urgency in the last third of the story, the opening events are strong enough to propel the reader through the rest of the book. A mixture of murder investigation, legal thriller, and medical drama, "A Fatal Debt" is a fast paced novel that should not be missed.
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Posted November 15, 2012
In A Fatal Debt, Gapper unwinds an excellent mystery. He expertly paints the looming background of the US 2008 debt crisis. While the details are vivid and factual, the characters are well-conceived. Ben Cowper, a psychiatrist, is a particularly sympathetic protagonist. As a reader and writer, I appreciate Gapper's page-turning style. As a finance professional, I appreciate the nuggets of financial expertise that nonetheless don't get in the way of a "can-you-believe-it?" good story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 16, 2012
A Fatal Debt has a certain charm to it, as does Ben Cowper, the
psychiatrist at the heart of the novel. For me though, the plot was
awkward and did not really hold up in the end. 3.5 stars would suit this
review best, but my generosity of spirit makes me give it four. There's
not a character in the book I would invite home with me, so it was hard
to root for anyone in the story. (Charm is not enough!)