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Buying In

Buying In

4.0 2
by Laura Hemphill

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For fans of Liar’s Poker and Den of Thieves, a debut novel about one woman’s adventures on Wall Street, and how risking everything for her job turned out to be the best gamble she ever made.


For fans of Liar’s Poker and Den of Thieves, a debut novel about one woman’s adventures on Wall Street, and how risking everything for her job turned out to be the best gamble she ever made.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The world of high finance provides a thrilling setting for Hemphill’s fine debut about survival in a cutthroat business where millions of dollars are at stake and the wrong comment can cost you your job. Sophie Landgraf, from smalltown Massachusetts, lands a lucrative Wall Street job out of college as an analyst for Sterling, while her college boyfriend struggles to make ends meet at an entry-level position at NPR. Sophie befriends a colleague, Vasu Mehta, who, after seven years on the job, is used to the grueling work but longs to spend more time with his family. Ethan Pearce, their department’s managing director, is a brilliant, suave, and cold-hearted wheeler and dealer who throws Sophie for a loop by bringing her into a major merger of aluminum companies. She forges a genuine connection with one of the deal’s main players, AlumiCorp CEO Jake Hutchinson, who worked his way up from the plant floor 23 years prior. The author, who paid her own dues at Lehman Brothers and other firms, clearly knows her way around Wall Street, but, more importantly, can make us care about her characters’ successes and failures, against a formidable backdrop rife with competition, backstabbing, and soul-searching. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
Debut novelist Hemphill successfully portrays life working at a big bank. It's October 2007, months before the subprime lending crisis, and Sophie Landgraf is a fresh-out-of-college Wall Street analyst working on her first big deal. Overtired, overcaffeinated and overworked, Sophie is still adjusting to the dog-eat-dog world of banking. Vainly, and in typical The Devil Wears Prada mode, she attempts to balance work and home life, especially her relationship with Will, the shaggy-haired college boyfriend, who helped her grieve when her mother died in an auto accident. Growing up poor and lacking financial support are Sophie's motivations for working in the financial sector. But she's also smart, good with numbers and actually likes her job; it's with mixed feelings that readers will watch her strive toward success. The other people on Sophie's account are Vasu, the vice president who never sees his wife and child; Ethan, the sharklike head of their group; and Jake Hutchinson, a mostly wholesome CEO client. None are particularly nuanced, but all are more sympathetic than one might expect, and by telling parts of the story from each of their points of view, Hemphill goes deep into the murky moral waters in which they all swim. Other bleak themes, precisely brought to life, are the excessive dedication that banking expects of its employees, institutional sexism and the impossibility of friendship in business. The deal itself is arguably the real protagonist and the reason readers will eagerly turn pages. Hemphill pulls off the neat trick of making the complex financial transaction clear to lay readers without dumbing down her characters. A solid, suspenseful Wall Street tale.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sophie Landgraf

If anyone found her here, she’d be fired. It was 2 a.m., and Sophie was crouched under a desk, sweat collecting under her collar, ankles wobbling over four-inch heels. The footsteps in the hall were getting closer. She stared at the nickel-gray carpet and prayed that whoever was out there would turn around, march past the senior bankers’ offices, and disappear.
   Moments ago Sophie had been weaving through the honeycomb of empty cubicles and blinking computer screens, struggling to balance the printouts propped against her hip, teetering on the heels that almost allowed her to look the men she worked with in the eye. She’d planned to leave the merger analysis for Ethan Pearce, her boss, and run home to get some sleep, but as she rounded the corner, she noticed Sinclair’s open door. The dark open slice, no more than an inch, invited her to reconsider. It seemed to say, It’s 2 a.m. No one’s here. Who’s to know?
   Sophie couldn’t help peeking through the glass wall. Sinclair’s desk glowed with the ambient light from Times Square, begging her to take another look inside its drawers, just for a second. Her reflection hovered on the glass door: suit a safe shade of navy, red hair pulled back tightly enough to give her a dull ache at the temples, entire appearance carefully constructed to be as unobjectionable as the maritime photographs lining Sterling’s halls. Being careful wasn’t getting her anywhere.
   The door swung open with her nudge. Pictures rested on Sinclair’s modular shelves: his young daughter grooming a mare, his wife perched outside a thatched bungalow that looked too perfect to be real. She hoped she’d find something new in Sinclair’s desk, her favorite for her late-night explorations—she deserved to get something out of being the last person on the floor to
   She slid open the top drawer. Only the familiar bow tie, Zagat’s, blister pack of antianthrax pills, June’s Harvard alumni magazine, and a half-eaten bar of Toblerone. She felt a delicious squeeze around her heart when she saw something strange stuffed between the files in Sinclair’s bottom drawer. She fished out an envelope, puckered and creased, “1997” scrawled across its flap. Inside were broken seashells, smooth and white as bone.
   Sophie was holding a shell to the light when she heard footsteps in the hall. She jammed the envelope back into the drawer and dove under the desk, banging her head. The footsteps were getting louder. Bile crept up her throat. Please let it be the sweet Romanian cleaning lady who once showed Sophie pictures of her son. Anyone but a banker. Let whoever was out there pass her by, and she’d never explore ever again—she promised.
   A shadow swept across the carpet. The elongated form stretched all the way to the windows. No vacuum. No wheeled trash can. Perfect posture. It must be a banker.
   The steps grew softer but Sophie didn’t dare breathe, waiting, listening for any sound beyond the buzz of Sinclair’s computer tower. It wasn’t until she heard the distant ding of the elevator that she closed her eyes in thanks. She was safe.
As Sophie knocked on Ethan Pearce’s door the next afternoon, every muscle from her fingers to her neck tightened into a single, stressed-out mass. The other analysts said she was lucky to be working for the most profitable managing director in their group, but honestly, Ethan scared her. It was perfectly obvious he thought everyone around him was an idiot. He wasn’t bad-looking—thick dark hair, commanding square jaw, skin that always looked windburned even though with the hours he worked, he couldn’t possibly spend much time outside. He was in better shape at forty than most of the twenty-two-year-olds she knew. But his dark eyes had a coldness, like he was assessing her worth.
   Ethan hardly looked up as Sophie slid into the chair beside Vasu Mehta. No thanks for staying until three last night, no nice work on the presentation, and definitely no sorry it took me until almost 5 p.m. to actually look at it. Ethan slashed red pen across the analysis like it had somehow offended him. It was nineteen hours before Ethan’s lunch meeting with the CEO of AlumiCorp, his prize client. In a week, the set of strategic alternatives the managing director planned to present at the meeting had mushroomed from five to fourteen; the stack of pages before him was now over an inch thick. If the meeting were delayed a day or two, Sophie was pretty sure fourteen would become thirty, the work expanding to fill every last possible second.
   Sophie looked over to Vasu, hoping for a smile, a thumbs-up, anything encouraging. Vasu’s shrug confirmed what she’d already suspected: she wouldn’t be seeing her boyfriend, Will, for the sixth night in a row, and Vasu wouldn’t be tucking his daughter into bed. Vasu was a vice president—a midlevel—and her direct superior, but as far as she could see, the only difference between them was that he got to go home before she did.
   Ethan laid his pen in perfect parallel to the edge of the desk. The other bankers decorated their identical modular desks with construction-paper Father’s Day cards, photos of themselves in scuba gear. Not Ethan. Not a single picture. Nothing on the walls. Ethan’s desktop was empty except for a Sterling & Sons mug holding pencils sharpened to a stiletto-thin point. One peek inside his top drawer had been enough for Sophie. Swimming goggles, nail clippers, a Ferragamo tie wound into a tidy coil, and packets of Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard. Nothing that compared to Ira Blumenstein’s gold tooth, Kenneth Yang’s Darth Vader lollipop, or Rich Angstrom’s Magic 8 Ball.
   Ethan swiveled his chair to face his floor-to-ceiling window. He pointed twenty-six stories down, to the twin spires stretching over Fiftieth Street. “We should’ve held this meeting at St. Jude’s. Then maybe we’d have a prayer.”
   Sophie could never tell if Ethan was joking or criticizing—another disadvantage of being new. Vasu raised a finger, and Sophie knew what was coming.
   “We could add a split-off of the Midwest, no?” Vasu asked.
   “Can’t hurt,” Ethan said. “Anything that brings in fees.”
   AlumiCorp was their best shot at booking business before year-end, or so Ethan reminded them pretty much constantly. Which was why, in the four months Sophie had worked at Sterling, she’d pulled more all-nighters than she had in four years at Yale. It wasn’t enough that she’d spent her entire Sunday modeling a merger between AlumiCorp and Millennium Can—on Monday, Ethan had her add a deal with Safe-Tee Tube. This past week, she’d modeled mergers between AlumiCorp and the rest of the top ten aluminum manufacturers. Correction: every one of the top ten except Roll-Rite. Now that she thought about it, why weren’t they including Roll-Rite? Should she suggest it?
   Her first month at Sterling, Sophie had taken it upon herself to wordsmith Ethan’s talking points so they would read more smoothly, confusing alumina and aluminum in the process. As Ethan reviewed her changes, he’d said, “Analysts should be seen and not heard, unless they’re right. You might’ve read every book in the library of whatever Ivy League school you went to, but in this business, you need to become an expert in the real world. Until you know the client’s business as well as the client does, please, do us all a favor and keep your mouth shut.”
   Now, watching Ethan eviscerate the AlumiCorp presentation, Sophie could hear her mother: if you don’t treat yourself with respect, no one else will either. She cleared her throat. “I wonder.” Her voice sounded hoarse. “Maybe it would make sense to add a merger with Roll-Rite?”
   Ethan squinted at her in a way that Sophie remembered perfectly from the girls who’d tied ribbons around their ponytails in middle school, who’d scanned Sophie up and down with an irritation that said, we both know how badly you need me and you’re very, very lucky that I’m barely tolerating you right now.
   “You must be kidding,” Ethan said flatly.
   She could feel the heat under her cheeks. She wondered why no one had ever told her that after college graduation, she might never feel smart or capable again.
   Ethan slid his markup across the table. “Finish the presentations by 5 a.m. Leave them here. I’ll pick them up before my flight. I want both of you at your desks, queued up, 8 a.m. In case we need to run any analysis on the fly.” Ethan rose, fastening the top button of his suit jacket with a quick flick of his thumb and index finger: they were dismissed.
   Vasu held the door for Sophie, stooping like he didn’t want to offend Ethan by towering over him. When they were out of Ethan’s earshot, Vasu said, “AlumiCorp’s and Roll-Rite’s Midwest operations, they’re the worst in the industry. Too many plants, not enough demand. Combine a $9 billion wreck with a $5 billion wreck . . . Well, that’s a full-on disaster, isn’t it?”
   “So basically I had the stupidest idea ever.”
   Vasu shrugged with noncommittal patience she imagined he’d perfected on his six-year-old. Sophie got the sense that that was exactly how he thought of her—as a child who asked too many questions. He pulled a pack of Parliaments from his pants pocket and stalked off toward the elevators.
   The problem with Sterling was that after you made a complete fool of yourself, there was nowhere to hide. The offices, the cubicles, the conference rooms—everything was transparent, designed to remind you that your productivity was being carefully monitored. Sophie and the other entry-level analysts were cloistered in cubicles at the center of the floor, where they could be watched from any direction.
   If her quadmate, Jordanne, wasn’t downstairs at a Credit Committee meeting, they could’ve ducked out to the Starbucks across the street, and Jordanne would have told Sophie that she shouldn’t let it get to her, that Ethan Pearce was notorious for being a jerk and he’d probably forgotten the whole thing already. Sophie’s mother would have thought it suspect that in a group of thirty, there were only two women, both analysts, the lowest of the low. Her mother would have said it was absolutely inexcusable that of all the empty desks on the twenty-sixth floor, the powers that be had seated Sophie and Jordanne alone in a quad by themselves, as if they needed to be quarantined. Sophie couldn’t have been more grateful. Like Jordanne said, “Girls have to help each other out.”
   Sophie dropped into the chair that still sprouted the short, dark hairs of its last owner, reminding her that her desk was on loan, until she’d proved she could live up to it. Rows of tiny holes dotted the nickel-gray carpet, an axis on which her cubicle could be reconfigured or eliminated entirely. Her first week at the bank, Sophie had dreamt that her cubicle kept shrinking smaller and smaller until her entire life fit inside a four-inch square.
   Sophie’s boyfriend, Will, had given her a ficus bush for her desk, which she refused to bring to Sterling because it would have made her stick out—the only plants on the floor were the two enormous vases by the elevator that were refilled each week with colossal stalks of Hawaiian torch ginger, dogwood branches that were taller than she was. The most Sophie dared was to tape a few pictures to the thin strip of Plexiglas that couldn’t be seen from the hall: Will atop Mount Frissell, dark curls wayward from the climb, feet planted wide in a way that made his wiry frame seem solid and confident. The latest nursery-school portrait of her godson, Bryce, a freckled, cowlicked kid who’d be five next week, the same age Sophie had been when she’d met his mother, Kim. Her last family snapshot, the three of them on Yale’s Old Campus the day her parents had come down for her eighteenth birthday. At the moment the camera snapped, she’d been secretly furious at her mother for telling her roommate about the waste-burning generator they’d just installed on the Western Massachusetts sheep farm where Sophie’s parents had homesteaded since the seventies. Sophie had been extremely careful to give her roommate the impression that her parents were actually normal.
   First thing’s first: Sophie texted Will to let him know she wouldn’t make it to Trivial Dispute that night. It would take until at least midnight to make Ethan’s changes, not to mention getting the books printed and bound—cutting it awfully close if she was going to get the presentations to Ethan by 5 a.m. She needed to refuel.
   Sophie searched for her nail polish, pushing aside the Ziploc bag of perfume samples in her bottom drawer and carefully lifting the scarf she’d knit with the last of her mother’s yarn. She tucked the bottle into the sleeve of her suit. The ladies’ room was empty, as usual. Perched on the cool lid inside the handicap stall, Sophie painted a fresh coat of red over her chipped nails.
At 4 a.m., the beeping of her BlackBerry broke Sophie’s nap. In the moment before she became fully awake, she reached out for Will’s chest. Her hand met cold plastic. She bolted upright, hitting her head on the underside of her desk. She peered around the trash can to make sure the floor was empty before she crawled out—no one could know she’d snuck in a few hours’ sleep. Strewn across her desk were a half-eaten container of massaman curry, Ethan’s edits, and four empty cans of Diet Coke. The guys in production would be finished with the presentations by now.
   The elevator opened to forty copy machines clicking in mechanized counterpoint. Men stooped over the copiers, glowing blue lines moving across their faces as the machines read another page. The presentations were spiral bound in maroon, the covers embossed with the Sterling stag. She’d thought Vasu was joking the first time he’d told her to flip through each page and check
for smudges and mistakes. “Trust me,” he said, “all shit flows downhill.”
   The twenty-sixth floor was silent except for the whir of an occasional computer: perfect conditions for exploring. Sophie was tempted to revisit the seashells in Sinclair’s bottom drawer. Her mother used to say that most wrongs were the result of human weakness, not calculation. Sophie owed it to herself to be stronger. Straight to Ethan’s office to drop off the AlumiCorp presentations.
   Inside the dark room, music played, so soft and eerie that Sophie thought she might have imagined it. As Sophie set the AlumiCorp books on her boss’s desk, she saw a silhouette, statuesque against the midtown skyline. Ethan stared out the window, soldier straight.
   Sophie braced herself for a reprimand. “I’m sorry, Ethan. I didn’t know—”
   He raised his hand and held it there until the recording tapered into silence. Ethan turned from the window. His mouth twitched into, not a smile exactly, but the memory of one. “Sibelius.”
   Si-bel-i-us. The word, the music—both sounded like loneliness. Sophie didn’t know what Sibelius was, but if she’d learned anything since arriving at Sterling, it was to keep quiet about things she didn’t know. She’d look it up later.
   “Leave the books on the desk.” Ethan turned back to the skyscrapers framed in his window.
   The door clicked close behind her.
   Sophie was dropping her BlackBerry into her coat pocket when Ethan strode past her cubicle, a Sterling gym bag slung over his shoulder. He raised his hand in good-bye, his eyes not meeting hers. In the months she’d worked with him, this Sibelius was the first hint of any interior life.
   Her elevator descended through two dozen Sterling fiefdoms, one stacked on top of the other. Nearly ten thousand employees worked in this building—more than lived in Stockton, the town where she’d grown up. Not to mention Sterling’s back offices in Jersey City, its satellites in Houston, Chicago, and Menlo Park, or London, Zurich, Beijing, Doha . . . Pretty easy to feel insignificant in this place.
   Sophie’s heels clicked across the cool marble of the Sterling lobby. Outside, wind whistled down the concrete. The lights of Times Square pulsed on quiet sidewalks, ticket stubs and napkin scraps strewn at her feet. Sophie was not a young woman who stood out in a crowd, and had it been a few hours later, she would have been lost in thickets of businessmen slamming shoulders with tourists, but for now, it was just her. She stared up—neck craned, head back, mouth open to the stock prices crawling around Sterling, the stag mounted above the skyscraper’s entrance, the first ten dark stories containing the trading floors, the next ten of asset management and legal, to the floors that held the investment banking groups, where a few windows were still checkered with the Oz-green glow of fluorescent lights. No matter how hard you worked, someone else worked harder.
The guy driving the town car woke Sophie when they reached Eighty-Fifth and Amsterdam. A garbage truck crept down the block, its flashing lights and steady beep an unwelcome reminder of the alarm that would wake her in a few hours. The hallway of Sophie’s apartment building smelled like her mother’s beef stew. How anyone could afford to live on the Upper West Side and get home in time to make dinner, she had no idea. She would never let her father know that she paid fifteen hundred a month—half her paycheck—for an apartment the size of a two-car garage. When she signed on with Sterling, he’d called her a Stepford sleepwalker. If she wasn’t going to convince him that she hadn’t sold out, she at least wanted him to believe that Sterling bought her a comfortable existence.
   Honestly, her apartment looked better in the dark. She’d moved in the first of July and spent Independence Day painting the walls a shade of yellow that the hardware store had called butter but that turned out more like canary. She’d considered changing it until Will joked that if she actually spent any time at home, she might get a sunburn. After that, she refused to change it on principle. The walls were still bare, but when she had a few more paychecks and some free time, she planned to fill them with art deco travel posters—“Fly Pan Am to Panama, ” “Sail Jewel Steamship to Japan”—places she’d never seen, but would like to, one day.
   She flicked on the light. Will yanked a pillow across his eyes.
   “Sorry!” she whispered. She’d thought he was staying at his place in Williamsburg. He was curled into a spoon, waiting for her. She knew from the way the comforter was balled up that her side of the bed would already be warm. It was as though he’d known she needed him here tonight even though she hadn’t known it herself. He pulled the pillow back an inch, eyes barely visible, the right corner of his lip pulling into the same smile it had two weeks into her freshman year when she’d explained that she was sorry she was so nervous but he had to understand that she’d only ever kissed two or four guys depending on whether you counted dares, which Will, a junior, found adorable.
   “I’m up, I’m up.” He propped himself on his elbows, skin pulled taut across his narrow chest. His hair fell in dark waves just past his chin, his aquiline nose so fine and delicate that Sophie sometimes thought he’d make a better-looking girl than she did. “What time is it?”
   “Five. I’m trying this new thing where I spend as little time in daylight as possible. I want to see whether it’s actually possible to turn into a mole.”
   She stepped out of her heels, pressing her arches into the floor, stretching them out. She didn’t waste time taking off her suit, crawling beside him and resting her head against his neck, the fit perfect after four years of practice. She took a deep breath and let it out. Will smelled of warm wood chips, cozy sweaters and clear winter skies, of places she wished she could be.
   “Bad day?” He kissed the tips of her fingers, nail polish picked clean off.
   “So I’m not just neurotic, I’m predictable. Great.” She said this sarcastically, though secretly she liked being known. “How was pub trivia?”
   “We lost. The deciding question: How many of the Seven Wonders of the World are still standing?”
   “One—the Pyramid of Giza.”
   “Show-off.” He grinned. “So tomorrow’s that big pitch?”
   “Does that mean they’ll let you go tomorrow night?”
   “I’m all yours.”
   His eyebrows lifted in a skeptical way that he really should know kind of irritated her. She knew she hadn’t exactly been the best girlfriend since starting at Sterling, but he didn’t need to rub it in.
   By the time she’d hung up her suit and set her BlackBerry on the radiator she pretended was a nightstand, Will was asleep. When she’d moved to New York in July, reuniting them after two years of long distance, he’d follow her to the sink when she was getting ready for bed, his arms wrapped around her waist, kissing the back of her neck.
   Will had taped a note to her bathroom mirror: package on counter. Teeth brushed and face washed, Sophie used her BlackBerry as a flashlight so she wouldn’t wake Will. The small cardboard box took up half the kitchen counter. Her father hadn’t skimped on packing tape. Sophie sifted through Styrofoam peanuts for the yin-yang her father had made from a repurposed hubcap. Printed on the back of a form letter from The Nation was a note:

Dear Ms. Serena Silver,
   Thank you for your purchase of Balance. Please visit Recycling
chuck.com to see the latest additions to my work. I appreciate your continued support.
   Chuck Landgraf

   Her elaborate ruse—alias, post office box, money orders—had been fun at first, but now she only tolerated it because her father never would have accepted financial help outright. As a kid, she hadn’t been aware of money problems, but in retrospect, her parents’ insistence that they didn’t “believe in” things like orthodontists, vacations, or cell phones should have been a tip-off. Their small sheep farm had always been more of a political statement than an actual business. Four years ago, when Sophie’s mother died, her father sold the sheep, sold the barn, and retreated into the shed behind their house where he made sculptures from scrap metal. He’d never said he was tight on cash, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that without the shearing money coming in, “Serena Silver” needed to start an art collection.
   Sophie had hated her name when she was little—it was too dogmatic, too her mother. Sophie, wisdom. Tracy, warlike. Jan Landgraf wanted her daughter to fight and fight smart. When, at age eight, Sophie said she wanted a peaceful name like Serena or Olivia, her mother’s face puckered. “Those women die of consumption while waiting for white knights.” Sophie could only imagine how livid her mother would have been if she’d known that her daughter’s initials were the same as Sterling’s ticker on the New York Stock Exchange.
   Sophie tried to stack the sculpture in her closet, on top of the others, but she’d run out of space. She settled on the kitchen cabinet, which was empty except for two bars of her favorite dark chocolate and the Marsala Will had used to cook dinner for their anniversary, a meal they’d gamely pretended was a Tuscan picnic, spreading a blanket across her floor. Sophie was a decent cook, but the most she’d done in this kitchen was burn toast. Hunching over the two-burner stove wouldn’t have appealed to Sophie even if she actually had time to eat at home.
   She pulled her laptop from under the bed and Googled “Sibelius.” Wikipedia said that the Finnish composer’s Sixth Symphony reminded Sibelius of the scent of first snow. That was exactly how Sophie would describe the piece she’d heard in Ethan’s office: still, cold, solitary. Sophie yawned and closed her eyes against the computer’s soft glow.

Meet the Author

Laura Hemphill graduated from Yale and spent seven years on Wall Street, where she worked at Lehman Brothers, Credit Suisse, and Dune Capital. This is her first novel.

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Buying In 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Sophie has a job that is consuming her life and a relationship and friends and family from home who may not make it through this change in her life.  She must decide whether this is the job and lifestyle that she wants and what she is willing to give up for it.   Being in my second job and where I will probably spend many more years, it was fun to read a book that reminded me of myself a few years back.  The right out of college, first job time of life was such a transition and trying to figure out where to commit your time was such a challenge.  I also loved how she had to make ethical decisions and the gut checks she had to make about the path she wanted to make for herself.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Sophie Landgraf grew up in a small town to parents who owned a sheep farm. They were hippies, and none too happy when their  child decided to get a degree in finance and pursue a job with Sterling, one of the big New York City banks. One of the first things we see Sophie doing is going through the desk drawers of the people whom she works for, trying to understand something about them. I liked this quirk of Sophie, and it gave us a look at the secret side of these single-minded people. She goes through her boss Ethan's desk."One peek inside his top drawer had been enough for Sophie. Swimming goggles, nail clippers, a Ferragamo tie wound into a tight coil, and packets of Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard. None of that compared to Ira Blumenstein's gold tooth, Kenneth Yang's Darth Vader lollipop, or Rich Angstrom's Magic 8 Ball."Sophie is a first year hire, so she does all of the grunt work: research and plugging numbers into Excel formulas, then analyzing the data. This world is so foreign to me, and I was fascinated by my immersion into it, thanks to Hemphill's skilled storytelling. Ethan's team consists of Vasu, an Indian man with a wife and two children he loves but rarely sees, and Sophie. They work in the Industrials division, and their big project is convincing their client AlumiCorp that they should merge with another aluminum manufacturer, whether or not it is in the best interest of their client. This would bring Sterling huge fees, along with a gig as a consultant to the newly formed company. If you had told me that I would find a novel about a big bank and the aluminum industry so intriguing, I would have said "I don't think so." And yet that is exactly what happened. As the merger goes through ups and downs, at times looking like it was all going to go down in flames, the tension builds and Hemphill has the reader on the edge of her seat, like a great spy thriller. The story is told through four different points of view- Sophie, Vasu, Ethan and the CEO of AlumiCorp. Sophie's story is more prevalent, but Vasu's is the one that is heartbreaking, and I would have liked to have heard more from him. There is one vignette that I also read in Duffy's Bond Girl. Two men compete to eat one of each of the items in the vending machine. Sophie was a referee for this contest (as was Duff's female protagonist), so I'm going to guess that this is something that goes on at all big banks. It epitomizes the testosterone driven mentality that exists. Vasu compares Sterling and all of the other banks who caused the subprime economic crisis to the Vending Machine Challenge guy, who "swallow(s) too much too fast, (then) throw(s) up." The novel takes place just prior to the Lehman collapse, and like many of the other banks, Sterling is in trouble for their reckless ways, affecting all of the major characters. We see that for all of their sacrifices- having no social life, missing holidays with family, working insane hours- their loyalty and hard work means nothing to a corporation. I bought into Buying In. I was swept into this crazy world of high finance along with Sophie, and taken on a fast-paced ride learning more about aluminum factories that I thought possible, and liking it. This is a smart novel, and one that will have you turning the pages to see how it all comes crashing down, and if Sophie is a survivor.