Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Chameleon by Richard Hains

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Chameleon by Richard Hains. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Chameleon by Richard Hains

Chameleon by Richard Hains

Beaufort Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-8253-0510-1 (0825305101)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8253-0510-8 (9780825305108)
Publication Date: May 2006
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Jon Phillips is head bond trader at one of Wall Street’s largest investment banks and lives the American dream in the heart of New York’s decadent banking community. But, after years of selfishness and extravagance, he plans his exit through an unprecedented and ultimately fraudulent deal in the US government bond market. A high-ranking colleague, who sits on the bank’s main board, has teamed up with a Russian financier in order to provide Jon with one of the key elements vital to the success of his ingenious scheme.

The deal goes spectacularly wrong and Jon’s world collapses. As the Russians desperately attempt to recover their lost millions, Jon is thrown into a deadly game of cat and mouse. From the seedy nightspots of downtown NYC to the plush yacht clubs of the Hamptons, pastoral aristocratic England, and Southern Australia’s endless beaches, past lovers, new menaces, and numerous apparently accidental deaths line his trail. Jon’s survival now depends on putting the past behind him and becoming a calculated predator instead of the vulnerable prey.

Review: The biography of Richard Hains included on the dust jacket states he is a financial expert and successful global investor. His first novel, Chameleon, draws extensively on this knowledge, especially in the first third of the book.

Jon Phillips, a financial wizard to whom excess is a way of life, devices a scheme that will net him millions based on rumors and false information, yet sees his profits turn to massive losses when news breaks that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve may have had a heart attack while in the company of an underage companion. Jon is immediately fired from his position, and becomes the fall guy for his company when the losses become known to their investors. When Jon's brother is murdered in a case of mistaken identity, Jon decides to take matters into his own hands and plots to personally recover all the money and exact revenge on the men who killed his brother.

Hains has tried to combine a financial thriller with a novel of international intrigue with mixed results. Readers who enjoy the nuts and bolts of stocks and bonds trading will get a thrill out of the first 100 pages or so. Hains provides enough information to keep readers interested without getting bogged down in esoteric details. But once the financial action stops, so does a lot of appeal of the book from this perspective.

The final two thirds of the book is largely an international race between Jon and those who are pursuing him and those he is pursuing. And for the most part, it's interesting, if not always credible, fiction. For example, it's hard to believe that Jon can travel the world using his own passport and remain undetected. It's even harder to believe that he can do so after he fakes his own death. Twice.

Finally, Hains has scattered lurid, explicit, and utterly pointless sex scenes throughout the book. They're written in such an emotionless manner that they're neither alluring nor appealing, and they're certainly not erotic. To his (or his editor's) credit, they are mercifully brief.

Special thanks to Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity for providing a copy of Chameleon for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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