The Devil's Banker

The Devil's Banker

by Christopher Reich

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440241423
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/03/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 462,235
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.03(d)

About the Author

Christopher Reich was born in Tokyo in 1961. A graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Texas at Austin, he worked in Switzerland before returning to the United States to pursue a career as a novelist. The bestselling author of three other acclaimed novels, Numbered Account, The Runner, and The First Billion, he lives in California with his wife and children.


From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

1

IT IS DIFFICULT TO WALK CASUALLY WITH FIVE HUNDRED thousand dollars taped to your belly. More difficult still when any of the men brushing past you would gladly slit your throat were they to suspect the king’s ransom you carried.

The man who had chosen the warrior’s name Abu Sayeed snaked through the alleys of the Smugglers’ Bazaar, careful to check his impatient step. He was close now, but he could not hurry. To hurry invited attention. And attention meant trouble he could not afford.

Around him, shopkeepers leaned in open doorways, smoking cigarettes and sipping cups of tea. He could sense their eyes upon him as they studied his bearing, gauging its strength, deciding whether he was a predator or prey. Instinctively, he stood straighter and thrust his chin forward. But all the while he kept his pace relaxed, his face slack, even as the claws dug into him.

The money was divided into fifty packets, each containing ten thousand dollars, each wrapped and waterproofed in transparent plastic. The packets had sharp, cruel corners that chafed and cut his flesh. He had been traveling for thirty-six hours. His chest and back were flayed as if scored by a cat-o’-nine tails. Only by thinking of the operation was he able to continue. The prospect of the infidels’ death invigorated him with the strength of the Pharaoh’s army.

At four p.m., the summer sun was at its fiercest. Dust devils arose on the dusty road, swirled lazily, then spun themselves out. After a brief lull, the bazaar was rousing itself to life. Beneath fluorescent lights, shelves sagged with cartons of Dunhill cigarettes, Toshiba laptops, and Paco Rabanne cologne, all brought overland from Afghanistan to avoid duty and tax. Other windows displayed less mundane goods: Kalashnikov rifles, Colt pistols, and Claymore mines. Hashish, heroin, even human chattel could be had at the right address. If there was a free market on earth, mused Sayeed, it was here on the western outskirts of Peshawar, the gateway to the Khyber Pass.

Stopping to purchase a cube of diced sugarcane, he cast his gaze behind him. His depthless black eyes scoured the street, checking for the misplaced face, the averted gaze, the anxious dawdler. So close, he must keep his senses keen. He did not believe that the crusaders knew his identity. Still, he must be cautious. Members of the American Special Forces infested Peshawar as lice infest a beast. Most were easy to spot, with their Oakley sunglasses, Casio watches, and desert boots. A few even dared enter the bazaar, where foreigners were not welcome and Pakistani law held no sway.

The thought of the Americans brought a contemptuous smile to his lips. Soon they would learn that they could not run. The fire was coming. It would burn them in their heartland. It would scald them from within.

And for a moment, the claws loosened their grip. The pain subsided, and he basked in the glow of destruction.

Satisfied his trail was clean, Sayeed spat out the sinewy cane and crossed the narrow road. To look at, he was no different from any of the thousands of souls who eked out an existence trafficking the porous border that separated Pakistan from Afghanistan. His shalwar kameez, the baggy shirt and trousers that made up the local dress, was filthy and stiff with dried sweat; his black headdress smothered with red alkali dust. His beard belonged to the most fervent of believers, as did the AK-47 he carried slung over a shoulder and the bejeweled dagger strapped to his calf.

But Sayeed was not Pakistani, nor was he a Pashtun from the southern provinces of Afghanistan, or an Uzbek from the north. Born Michael Christian Montgomery in London, England, Sayeed was the bastard offspring of a cancerous British officer and a teenage Egyptian whore. His father had died while he was a boy, leaving him a polished accent and not much more. Unable to care for him, his mother returned to Cairo and gave him over to the madrasas, the religious schools that gifted him with an Islamic education. His childhood was brutish and short. It was a natural progression to the camps where he learned the creed of the gun, memorized the verse of violence, and worshiped at the altar of rebellion. And from there to the killing fields of Palestine, Chechnya, and Serbia.

At twenty, the Sheikh found him.

At twenty-one, Michael Christian Montgomery ceased to exist. It was Abu Mohammed Sayeed who swore the oath, accepted the mark, and joined Hijira.

Skirting a convoy of carts piled high with Korean fabrics, Tibetan rugs, and Panasonic televisions still in their factory packaging, he reached the Tikram Mosque. The doors were open, and inside the shadowy hall, a few men lay on prayer rugs, prostrate in worship. His eyes returned to the street. Scanning the intersection ahead, he felt a new pain lash his back. This time, however, it was not the jagged belt that provoked his discomfort. It was fear. He could not see the store. Somehow, he had taken a wrong turn. He was lost.

Frantically, Sayeed turned his head this way and that. It could not be. He was at the Tikram Mosque. He had seen the photographs. He had studied the maps. Despair washed over him. Others were waiting. The countdown had begun. Seven days. The thought of failure turned his bowels to water.

Terrified, he wandered into the street. A horn blared in his ear, loud, very loud, but from another universe altogether. Sayeed jumped back a step and a jitney lumbered past, passengers hanging from the doors, clinging to the luggage rack. In its wake, a cloud of rank exhaust choked the already oppressive air. He could not go on. He could not go back. Truly, he was damned.

The exhaust dissipated and he saw it. The gold letters emblazoned on a black field. “Bhatia’s Gold and Precious Jewelry.” His despair vanished. In its place came joy. The light of a thousand suns.

“Insh’allah, God is great,” he whispered, a bolt of piety swelling his heart.

Guards stood on either side of the doorway, Kalashnikovs to their chests, fingers tickling the trigger guard. Sayeed passed them without a glance. They were not there to protect jewelry, but cash, primarily U.S. dollars, and gold ingots. Bhatia’s reputation as a jeweler might be suspect, but his trustworthiness as a hawaladar, or money broker, was unquestioned. Faisan Bhatia had long served the local smuggling community as its agent of choice. He was the only broker in the region able to handle the large sums that Abu Sayeed required.

In Arabic, hawala means “to change.” And in Hindi, “trust.” Put simply, it was the hawala broker’s job to effect transfers of cash from one city to another. Some of his clients were traders eager to repatriate their earnings after selling their haul in the bazaar. Others, simple folk wishing to send money home to loved ones in Karachi, Delhi, or Dubai. Both groups shared a distrust of the bureaucracy and paperwork demanded by the country’s less-than-solvent banks. For them, hawala was a welcome alternative. A system built on trust, hidden from intrusive eyes. A system that had been in place when Arab traders plied the Silk Road hundreds of years ago.

Bhatia, a fat Indian with a streak of gray in his hair, stood imperiously behind the counter. As Sayeed approached, he eyed the customer’s caked clothing and unwashed face with undisguised contempt.

“I would like to make a transfer,” Abu Sayeed whispered when he was close enough to taste the man’s breath. “It is a matter of some urgency.”

The Indian did not move.

“The Sheikh sent me.”

Faisan Bhatia’s eyes flickered, but only for an instant. “Come this way.”


From the Hardcover edition.

Interviews

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: Reading. I read and read and read. Newspapers, magazines, the Internet--you name it, I try and suck it up and find something interesting inside of it. I like to think of international finance as my bailiwick, so I start from there. Usually, a story will catch my interest and I'll wonder if there's enough material there to sustain a book. Then I start on the personal angle. What's the hook? The crux of the story that will drive a reader to gulp down 450 pages? From there, it's hopscotch all over the place. First I do the research, then I construct the story around interesting, knowledgeable people. The hardest part is always the character stuff- making the hero grow and come out a better person at the other side of things. Without a really compelling hero or heroine, the best "hook" is never more than that- a quirky little attention getter. By the way, I don't own a television set. As parents of two young daughters, my wife and I feel strongly that TV is a wildly negative influence on kids' minds... and adults too, most of the time. The only stuff I used to watch was the news and Biography on A&E, but now even CNN's hard to look at, with all that gibberish dancing on every available square inch of the screen. Mostly what I hate is how dumb the news is. It's time our media gives us the benefit of the doubt. We're smarter than that.

Q: How do you work?

A: Writing is a job, just like anything else. Often I think the deciding factor in who can make a career as a successful author is the ability to sit in a chair for eight hours a day (or however long one needs to write) and simply get thebook written. There are so many distractions and a writer can't wait for the "muse" to land on his shoulder. I try and hit my desk by 8:15 and will work until noon. Usually, I eat lunch out somewhere nearby with my wife, then get back to it at 1:30 or 2. Those are the hardest hours. Frankly, I'd rather be napping, or playing golf. Then around 4:00 the engine really starts up again, and I'm able to get a solid ninety minutes in before dinner. The thing about writing is that it isn't constant or linear. What I mean is that you can start the day writing four great pages and then not be able to add a single thing to it. Or you can crank out an entire chapter in two hours and then spend the next two days getting it right. Usually, though, it's slow and steady. Two pages in the morning. Two in the afternoon. After six months, you've got a good stack of paper on your desk. Still, I can't think of a better way to make a living. I used to be an investment banker and the thought of those fourteen-hour days cooped up inside a skyscraper is enough to give me the shivers. No thanks. You can keep your five million dollar salaries...then again, five mil is pretty good...

Q: What do you do to relax?

A: By nature I'm a high-strung person. One of those guys that can't stand still for too long. I love to golf, but it's hard to find six hours to just disappear, especially with two awesome daughters who I love to play with. I try to run a few times a week...nothing serious, a quick ten-mile loop, then a few dozen wind sprints. Just kidding! If I make it three miles before wimping out, I'm lucky. I like to get to the gym, too, but that seems to be happening ever less frequently. My wife and I love the movies. Whenever there's something that does not center around car chases, evil cops, towering infernos, or anything with the word "Matrix" in it, we jump at the chance to go see it. Our favorite film last year was "Unfaithful" starring Diane Lane, Richard Gere, and that French guy whose name my wife keeps mumbling when she's asleep. Talk about a hard hitting movie! And if Diane Lane ever reads this: "Girl, you was robbed!" I'm looking forward to the new Tom Cruise movie, "The Last Samurai." Music-wise, I'm digging the live version of U2's "Beautiful Day," John Mayer's album "Room for Squares," and from the oldies bin, "Physical Graffiti" by Led Zeppelin. And, of course, anything by Oscar Peterson, my all time favorite. Naturally, I love to read too. I just polished off Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides and loved it. The Human Stain by Philip Roth was a great read. Genius at work! I'm waiting with baited breath for the new Le Carre. Everything stops around our house when his books hit the stands. Everything I learned about writing, I got from Le Carre.

Q: What's the next one about?

A: I'm just starting digging on the new one, but it will center around these giant private equity firms that currently control a lot of the biggest U.S. defense companies and employ former U.S. government officials. The potential for conflict of interest is so huge, the smell of corruption so rank, that even if these guys aren't guilty, they should be! So far, I've got the best villain I've come up with and a great hero. The rest is a work in progress!

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Devil's Banker 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
heidialice on LibraryThing 28 days ago
A stereotypical man-and-woman crime fighting duo take on an international Arab terrorist ring after September 11th.While there were plenty of action/drama tropes here, the focus on a slightly nerdier side (the money trail) gave it an interesting twist. Flat characters and a needless love story (though not overblown) were slightly irritating but not unexpected. I would read more Reich when I wanted a lighter, action-y book.
jmcclain19 on LibraryThing 28 days ago
Reich is a political thriller writer in the vein of Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva & Brad Thor. Reich's thrillers tend to have more of a financial bent, which adds a different twist to the genre. General premise of Devil's Banker is a Treasury Agent teams up with a British Spy to hunt down the financial backing of terrorist plotting an attack. Quick entertaining page turner.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
In Paris the bomb killed the terrorist and several counter agents. The CIA fears that the dead terrorist¿s host group will strike the United States next, but do not know whom, where and how. Forensic accountant Adam Chapel is assigned to follow the money trail as all terrorist groups need funding in hope that the meandering path will lead to the group before they can act.

Teamed up with espionage agent Sarah Churchill, they find the money flow from Paris takes them to divergent forks: the European banking community and the back streets of Pakistan. Their efforts soon leads to Hijira and its wealthy enigmatic patron Marc Gabriel, but will Adam and Sarah make it in time to stop a strike at America¿s heartland?

THE DEVIL¿S BANKER is an intelligent, exciting counterterrorism tale that hooks the reader from the moment the bomb detonates in Paris (very beginning of the novel). The story line is cleverly devised to entertain readers yet show how a money trail, so much in the news since 9/11, is traced. Though the alphabet soup of organizations and agencies are difficult to follow leading to some disruption as to which side a secondary player belongs to, fans of fiscal thrillers will appreciate Christopher Reich¿s deep story.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
Simply put, a great read. Exciting, informative, with great international locales. The book opens up with a bang - literally! - as we jump into the tail end of an international sting operation with intelligence operatives following terrorists in Pakistan and Paris. Its full speed ahead from there. All I can say is that I started the book at 3 in the afternoon and at 11 I was still reading. Reich is doing what Tom Clancy and Frederick Forsyth - two of my favorite authors - did so well ten years ago. Going so deep into the intelligence community that you think you are there. This is definitely Reich's best since 'Numbered Account.' Some of the financial skullduggery was a bit complex, but so is real life. A five star read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To many unanswered questions. It had a potential to be a good novel but the auther just didn't deliver!
slatsdawson More than 1 year ago
This book was not bad but would not make my permanent collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like all his books, there are some compelling elements and there are elements that just never reach their potential. He laid out a cast of characters and barely developed any of them.