I dunno. But this week I decided to pick something completely different from last weeks rec – Joanna Chamber’s excellent Regency forensic romance – by going with a contemporary story that is part financial thriller, part psychological drama, part an examination of the dehumanising effects of power and just a little bit angsty romance, with one of the most disturbing openings I’ve seen for a while that made me go “whoa Bessie” and read through my fingers for a few pages.
Whatever the eventual order of my Favourite Reads of 2014, I’m sure that Return of Investment by Aleksandr Voinov will be very close to the top of the list.
Omg I just called Aleksandr Voinov Bessie. Don’t sppose he’ll care.
Where to start with this book? Just look at that cover – he looks about 15! It’s all there. The sharp suit, even sharper haircut, a watch that tells the time in 5 different timezones 10 feet underwater – the trappings of those young whizzkids who can work out 5% compound interest over 15 years without a calculator, minus their annual commission. Frighteningly intelligent, but still a little naive, Martin David, our protagonist works in the City, that part of London where the financial transactions are made and where telephone numbers < mortgage repayments. Martin is hungry – for success, to prove himself, to acquire the things he needs to be SEEN as a success, but most of all for the approval of his boss. In order to get these things Martin is prepared to do pretty much anything it takes. You have to spend in order to earn – whether it's getting in a personal trainer and Savile Row tailoring to look the part, or sharing his body with an older more savvy man who can give him pointers in how to succeed in business. That he is emotionally invested in his unattainable boss, Francis de Bracey, is unfortunate, but he uses the hero worship that is sliding helplessly into love to power his determination to succeed. I loved Martin for his innocence and regretted each loss as it occurred.
Francis is an amazing character – distant, capable of great viciousness, with an ego the size of Pluto but with an old fashioned idea of duty and honour. I wasn't sure what to make of him at first. All readers bring their own experiences to a book and I know the De Braceys as a subdivision of the De Braose family who once invited all their neighbours to dinner then slaughtered the lot of them. I was prepared to loathe him and had cast him as the villain so was surprised at the sympathy that I developed for him as all the double dealing, back stabbing and nastiness began to take effect.
Radix malorum est cupiditas – money is the root of all evil – and this book reflects that while showing how easy it was to fall into the traps that wiped out livelihoods and ruined portfolios. I found the financial aspects as fascinating as the plot concerning the shifting allegiances within the financial community.
No, this ISN'T a romance in the usual sense. If I had to categorise it, it would be as a coming of age story as Martin matures and decides what is REALLY important to him. Absolutely a Five Star Read. I loved it!