The main character in this book is from the get-go, tough to like. As the novel continues, he screws up by the numbers and gets himself into deeper trouble. He is one of those men who really doesn't stop to smell the flowers and in the process, misses all the details of life that are important to him.
As the book opens, Ned Allen is a Regional Sales Manager for a computer magazine. He is living the yuppie dream without the ability to pay the bill. He has a beautiful young wife who loves him, but who also accuses him of not communicating or sharing his fears, hopes and aspirations. As we get to know Ned, it seems that the only redeeming character trait that he has is his loyalty to the people who work for him.
As the book continues, Ned plans on becoming a bigwig at his magazine after a German conglomerate takes over. However, plans don't work out, the Germans flip the company quickly (to the competition, no less) and the new buyer decides to quickly close the magazine. Ned is out of work and almost as quickly, out of his home and marriage, when a night of drunken carelessness leaves him with the telltale marks of illicit sex. Within hours, it seems Ned is not only jobless and homeless, but penniless as well.
As he grows desperate, an old high school friend seems to step in to the rescue. But just remember, when things appear to be too good to be true, they generally are. Ned is hired to market a private equity fund. He quickly comes to realize that all is not as it appears to be. Just as quickly, he finds that his high school buddy is more sinister than altruistic and Ned realizes that his friend has him in a deadly and vice-like grip.
The author Douglas Kennedy, has done a very fine job of capturing all of the tension, fear and emotion that Ned feels as he realizes that his predicament may be inescapable. But as other readers of this finely plotted and paced thriller will tell you, Ned Allen, not always likeable as a person, is more resourceful than we would suspect.
Kennedy paces this story at just the right speed to move Ned along from one predicament to another. The reader finds himself beginning to sympathize with Ned and hope that he finds a way out. Because, despite his failings as an employee and a husband, Ned Allen has really done nothing to merit the problems that have been heaped on his plate.
I enjoyed this book. Mr. Kennedy does a very effective job of fleshing out his characters and although I did not like Ned too much at the beginning of the book, he reminded me of John Grisham's main character in THE FIRM by book's end. This is a fast read that gets faster as the story progresses. To be sure, it is not Tolstoy, but it is an entertaining look at the world of magazine publishing, sales, and some of the shadier and more sordid sides of investment banking and high finance. There is also a well wrought description of the money laundering process and how Ned is sucked into it as an unwitting dupe.
All in all, an entertaining, quick read. Give it a try.