This timely debut thriller by an award-winning Financial Times columnist is a gripping tale of lethal intrigue set in the high-stakes Wall Street world—where wealth and privilege are no match for jealousy and betrayal.
Ben Cowper, an attending psychiatrist at the prestigious New York–Episcopal Hospital, is stunned to learn the identity of the emergency patient he’s just been assigned to treat: Harry Shapiro, a Wall Street colossus and one of Episcopal’s most prominent donors. But a high-profile reversal of fortune has left the once powerful investment banker jobless, bitter, and possibly desperate—judging by the handgun his wife finds him clutching. In Ben’s expert opinion, Shapiro is a suicide waiting to happen. But when the headstrong financier balks at an extended stay in the hospital psych ward, Ben reluctantly releases him, bowing to political pressure from Episcopal’s chief administrator, who’s more concerned with the patient’s money than his mind.
Days later, the shocking news breaks: There’s been a shooting death in Harry Shapiro’s Hamptons mansion. But even more shocking is the identity of the victim. A tragedy sets in motion an explosive chain of events that turns Ben Cowper’s life upside-down.
As hard-nosed cops close in with harder questions, the hospital closes ranks to protect its own interests. But with colleagues freezing Ben out, innocent circumstances conspire to incriminate him. Hounded by a DA who’s out for blood, and haunted by the specter of a shattered career, Ben has no choice: He must delve into the hearts and minds of the people who know Harry best, uncover the secrets they’d rather die—or kill—to keep, and expose the truth behind a web of malice disguised as madness.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)|
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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!)