Best New Books: Week of 2/18/2020

“Books were her salvation. As a child, she’d had a shelf of childhood favorites that she loved enough to read over and over again. But after, during the hospital stay and the long voyage and the cold days in Idlewild’s dreary hallways, books became more than mere stories. They were her lifeline, the pages as essential to her as breathing.” – Simone St. James, The Broken Girls


Saint X by  Alexis Schaitkin ★

saint xClaire is only seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison, disappears on the last night of their family vacation at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X. Several days later, Alison’s body is found in a remote spot on a nearby cay, and two local men – employees at the resort – are arrested. But the evidence is slim, the timeline against it, and the men are soon released. The story turns into national tabloid news, a lurid mystery that will go unsolved. For Claire and her parents, there is only the return home to broken lives.

Years later, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth – not only to find out what happened the night of Alison’s death but also to answer the elusive question: Who exactly was her sister? At seven, Claire had been barely old enough to know her: a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.

As Claire doggedly shadows Clive, hoping to gain his trust, waiting for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them, two people whose lives were forever marked by the same tragedy.

Description from Goodreads.

“This writer is fearless, and her gamble pays off. This killer debut is both a thriller with a vivid setting and an insightful study of race, class, and obsession.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“A beautifully written and paced debut novel… Reminiscent of some of the sharp observations and language that made Gone Girl a success, Saint X will keep you up all night and haunt you for days after.” – Amazon Book Review

“Schaitkin’s unsettling debut plays with the conventions of the romantic thriller to comment on the uneasy relationship between working-class residents of a fictional island in the Caribbean and the wealthy American tourists who visit it… This is a smart page-turner, both thought-provoking and effortlessly entertaining.” – Publishers Weekly

“In this riveting debut, novelist Alexis Schaitkin delves into the ripple effects of a tragedy on two individuals from seemingly polar-opposite walks of life… While Saint X on its surface presents a mystery, the focus is on the dynamics of human relationships–and the result is an engrossing tale about family, about privilege and about finding one’s way in the labyrinth of life.” – Shelf Awareness

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The Antidote for Everything by  Kimmery Martin

antidote for everythingGeorgia Brown’s profession as a urologist requires her to interact with plenty of naked men, but her romantic prospects have fizzled. The most important person in her life is her friend Jonah Tsukada, a funny, empathetic family medicine doctor who works at the same hospital in Charleston, South Carolina and who has become as close as family to her.

Just after Georgia leaves the country for a medical conference, Jonah shares startling news. The hospital is instructing doctors to stop providing medical care for transgender patients. Jonah, a gay man, is the first to be fired when he refuses to abandon his patients. Stunned by the predicament of her closest friend, Georgia’s natural instinct is to fight alongside him. But when her attempts to address the situation result in incalculable harm, both Georgia and Jonah find themselves facing the loss of much more than their careers.

Description from Goodreads.

“Martin’s trademark witty repartee makes her characters fun to be with, and she both entertains and tackles thought-provoking questions of honor and integrity in a world where facts matter little.” – Booklist

“…Martin’s medical know-how (she’s an emergency medicine doctor) elevates the setting and provides authenticity… [will] appeal to readers who appreciate complex medical dramas.” – Publishers Weekly

“If you tend to enjoy a bit of a lighter, more commercial fiction novel which still contains important social references, you may want to give this one a try.” – The Nerd Daily

Available Formats:

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The Holdout by  Graham Moore

holdoutIt’s the most sensational case of the decade. Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar real estate fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher Bobby Nock is the prime suspect after illicit text messages are discovered between them–and Jessica’s blood is found in his car. The subsequent trial taps straight into America’s most pressing preoccupations: race, class, sex, law enforcement, and the lurid sins of the rich and famous. It’s an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed. Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, convinced of Nock’s innocence, persuades the rest of the jurors to return the verdict of not guilty, a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.

Flash forward ten years. A true-crime docuseries reassembles the jurors, with particular focus on Maya, now a defense attorney herself. When one of the jurors is found dead in Maya’s hotel room, all evidence points to her as the killer. Now, she must prove her own innocence–by getting to the bottom of a case that is far from closed.

As the present-day murder investigation weaves together with the story of what really happened during their deliberation, told by each of the jurors in turn, the secrets they have all been keeping threaten to come out–with drastic consequences for all involved.

Description from Goodreads.

“This stellar novel from bestseller [Graham] Moore takes a searing look at the U.S. justice system, media scrutiny, and racism… Moore has set a new standard for legal thrillers.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“The twists are sharp and the flashbacks that uncover what each juror knows are placed for maximum impact in this rollicking legal thriller… Moore expertly combines deft character work with mounting bombshell revelations in a story that will attract new readers and also seems primed for the big screen.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] stemwinder of a murder mystery wrapped in a legal thriller… The story is gripping, and the pace is furious.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

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Little Constructions by  Anna Burns

little constructionsIn the small town of Tiptoe Floorboard, the Doe clan, a close-knit family of criminals and victims, has the run of the place. Yet there are signs that patriarch John Doe’s reign may be coming to an end. When Jetty Doe breaks into a gun store and makes off with a Kalashnikov, the stage is set for a violent confrontation. But while Jetty is making her way across town in a taxi, an elusive, chatty narrator takes us on a wild journey, zooming in and out on various members of the Doe clan with long, digressive riffs that chase down the causes and repercussions of Jetty’s act.

Before Milkman took the world by storm after winning the Man Booker Prize, Anna Burns had already honed her distinctive voice. In her second novel, Little Constructions, she exhibits the same linguistic brio, coruscating wit, and scintillating insight into men, women, and the roots of violence. A wickedly funny novel that swoops and spirals as it examines the long shadow of abuse and violent crime, Little Constructions explores what transpires when unspeakable realities, long hidden from view, can no longer be denied.

Description from Goodreads.

“The writing is energetic, convoluted and courageous. It has a gutsy nervousness that matches the subject matter, as if there is no way to write about violence and violation other than with comedy, digression, wordplay and other peculiarities.” – The Guardian

“Burns’ style can make for tough sledding, but the intensity of her material justifies the effort.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Belfast native Burns’s raucous, exacting modernist crime novel (after the Booker Prize–winning Milkman) skewers men’s incomprehension of women… Burns’s fans will find much to chew on.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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The Other Mrs. by  Mary Kubica ★

other mrsShe tried to run, but she can’t escape the other Mrs.

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

Description from Goodreads.

“Secrets abound in The Other Mrs. as the plot moves at a brisk pace, with believable—and surprising—twists and a startling finale.” – Newsday

“…engrossing… The story unfolds in three deeply sad female voices that sweep readers up in the dramas and secrets, past and present, that seal the fate of each character.” – Booklist

“Kubica writes a mesmerizing tale with an unreliable narrator that draws attention to a less-understood mental health condition… What is satisfying and most effective is the oppressive sense of unease that permeates this intense psychological suspense drama. For fans of A.J. Finn and Gillian Flynn.” – Library Journal

“[A] solid mystery with twists and turns that keep the reader engaged.” – Red Carpet Crash

Available Formats:

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The Dark Corners of the Night by  Meg Gardiner

dark corners of the nightI am the legion of the night…

He appears in the darkness like a ghost, made of shadows and fear—the Midnight Man. He comes for the parents but leaves the children alive, tiny witnesses to unspeakable horror. The bedroom communities of Los Angeles are gripped with dread, and the attacks are escalating.

Still reeling from her best friend’s close call in a bombing six months ago, FBI behavioral analyst Caitlin Hendrix has come to Los Angeles to assist in the Midnight Man investigation and do what she does best—hunt a serial killer. Her work is what keeps her going, but something about this UNSUB—unknown subject—doesn’t sit right. She soon realizes that this case will test not only her skills but also her dedication, for within the heart of a killer lives a secret that mirrors Caitlin’s own past. Hesitancy is not an option, but will she be able to do what must be done if the time comes?

Description from Goodreads.

“…the story in this suspenseful thriller is exquisitely constructed. No by-the-numbers thriller here; this one definitely lives up to its predecessors. Gardiner is on a roll with this series, gathering fans with each installment like a snowball gathering mass as it rumbles down a hill.” – Booklist

“Meg Gardiner treats readers to her very best work yet… I am so high on this book. Of all the 2020 titles I’ve read over the last 4-6 months, this is easily one of my favorites.” – The Real Book Spy

“Los Angeles may not have snow at Christmastime, but it’s got the next best thing: a stone-cold serial killer who provides FBI behavioral analyst Caitlin Hendrix with her third, and perhaps most chilling, adversary… Gardiner has mastered the art of the serial-killer saga without an ounce of fat.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

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The Sun Down Motel by  Simone St. James

sun down motelUpstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

Description from Goodreads.

“There are very few novels that leave me feeling genuinely spooked… Simone St. James’s The Sun Down Motel is very much one of those books, taking twists and turns that are equal parts compelling and creepy.” – PopSugar

“…engrossing… there’s no doubt about the shocking, satisfying denouement. Horror fans will also want to check this one out.” – Publishers Weekly

“Words like ‘un-put-down-able’ and ‘page-turner’ are so often overused, but in the case of Simone St. James’s new thriller, The Sun Down Motel, those words are spot-on perfect descriptors!… a great cast of characters that will keep you guessing who to trust, who to be wary of, and who just might save the day.” – The Nerd Daily

Available Formats:

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Death in the Family by  Tessa Wegert

death in the familyA storm-struck island. A blood-soaked bed. A missing man. Senior Investigator Shana Merchant believes it all adds up to a killer in their midst—and that murder is a family affair.

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she’s taken a job in her fiancé’s sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor’easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses. They arrive to find blood on the scene and a house full of Sinclair family and friends on edge.

While Tim guesses they’re dealing with a runaway case, Shana is convinced that they have a murder on their hands. As the gale intensifies outside, she starts conducting interviews and discovers the Sinclairs and their guests are crawling with dark and dangerous secrets.

Trapped on the island by the raging storm with only Tim whose reliability is thrown into question, the increasingly restless suspects, and her own trauma-fueled flashbacks for company, Shana will have to trust the one person her abduction destroyed her faith in—herself. But time is ticking down, because if Shana’s right, a killer is in their midst and as the pressure mounts, so do the odds that they’ll strike again.

Description from Goodreads.

“…an utterly irresistible modern-day mystery that is deeply indebted to the great ‘locked room’ puzzles of the past… has all the best elements of Agatha Christie-inspired crime fiction: a clever puzzle, a cast of eccentric characters, and a moody atmosphere… Spending time among the Sinclairs is like spending time in the middle of a game of Clue.” – Crime by the Book

“This locked-room thriller has all of the requisite tangled motives and deductive crime-solving, along with a riveting introduction to edgy survivor Shana and Tim, her steady, easygoing foil.” – Booklist

“Wegert maintains suspense by gradually parceling out her lead’s backstory and how Bram ties in with the Sinclair case. Fans of golden age closed circle murder mysteries will enjoy this effective update.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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Second Sister by  Chan Ho-Kei

second sisterA schoolgirl—Siu-Man—has committed suicide, leaping from her twenty-second floor window to the pavement below. Siu-Man is an orphan and the librarian older sister who’s been raising her refuses to believe there was no foul play—nothing seemed amiss. She contacts a man known only as N.—a hacker, and an expert in cybersecurity and manipulating human behavior. But can Nga-Yee interest him sufficiently to take her case, and can she afford it if he says yes?

What follows is a cat and mouse game through the city of Hong Kong and its digital underground, especially an online gossip platform, where someone has been slandering Siu-Man. The novel is also populated by a man harassing girls on mass transit; high school kids, with their competing agendas and social dramas; a Hong Kong digital company courting an American venture capitalist; and the Triads, market women and noodle shop proprietors who frequent N.’s neighborhood of Sai Wan. In the end it all comes together to tell us who caused Siu-Man’s death and why, and to ask, in a world where online and offline dialogue has increasingly forgotten about the real people on the other end, what the proper punishment is.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] clever, twisty novel… The reveals are both logical and surprising, and Chan populates the plot with realistic characterizations. Fans of hacker thrillers such as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander books will be amply rewarded.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…virtually irresistible, with twisty-turny, didn’t-see-that-coming manipulations guaranteed to keep readers wide awake into the wee hours… Chan presents what initially seems to be a linear mystery–solve the dead girl’s murder–and amplifies the thriller into a multi-layered treatise on overcrowded cities and its overlooked citizens (his native Hong Kong earns character status here), the unchecked power of the Internet, the grey ethics of revenge, and the potential limits of morality in business, friendships and even among family members. Deftly controlling multiple narratives beyond the sisters’ tragedy, Chan exposes high tech, high finance, high fraud, high school hierarchies, dysfunctional families, absent parents, relentless surveillance, sexual politics and rape culture. For readers, the provocative mix of urgent contemporary issues and page-turning action won’t disappoint…” – Shelf Awareness

“[A] complex and well-crafted mystery… Chan’s appealing style will hold readers’ interest, especially those who enjoy their suspense set in international locales.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

The Last Passenger by  Charles Finch

last passengerLondon, 1855: A young and eager Charles Lenox faces his toughest case yet: a murder without a single clue. Slumped in a first-class car at Paddington Station is the body of a young, handsome gentleman. He has no luggage, empty pockets, and no sign of violence upon his person – yet Lenox knows instantly that it’s not a natural death.

Pursuing the investigation against the wishes of Scotland Yard, the detective encounters every obstacle London in 1855 has to offer, from obstinate royalty to class prejudice to the intense grief of his closest friend. Written in Charles Finch’s unmistakably warm, witty, and winning voice, The Last Passenger is a cunning and deeply satisfying conclusion to the journey begun in The Woman in the Water and The Vanishing Man.

Description from Goodreads.

“Finch’s plotting is excellent, his characters well developed, but it is his prose that truly shines. He evokes the writing style of 19th-century English authors―Wilkie Collins jumps to mind―lending a degree of authenticity to the narrative found in comparatively few historical novels. Finch also incorporates then-contemporary international politics, especially the burgeoning abolitionist movement in the U.S., in this exceptional and atmospheric mystery.” – Bookpage

“Finch outdoes himself in the latest Charles Lenox mystery… [he] superbly weaves facts, interesting historical tidbits and emotions in a book so rich one hates to see it end.” – Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“Finch effectively integrates the politics of the time, including pre–Civil War tensions in America… a clever murder puzzle. Anne Perry and David Dickinson fans will be satisfied.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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Chasing Cassandra by  Lisa Kleypas

chasing cassandraEverything has a price…

Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. Anything—or anyone—is his for the asking. It should be simple to find the perfect wife—and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love—the one thing he can’t give.

Everything except her…

Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win.

When a newfound enemy nearly destroys Cassandra’s reputation, Severin seizes the opportunity he’s been waiting for. As always, he gets what he wants—or does he? There’s one lesson Tom Severin has yet to learn from his new bride:

Never underestimate a Ravenel.

The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun…

Description from Goodreads.

“Opposites attract in spectacular fashion in the sixth Victorian-era Romance in bestseller Kleypas’s Ravenel series… The plot is well-balanced, the pace steady, the characters deliciously complex, and the chemistry electric. Returning readers will also be pleased by cameos from characters from earlier installments. Kleypas fans and first timers alike will fall in love with this refreshing romance.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…witty banter, fun cameos from previous couples in the series, and two likable protagonists… Will delight Kleypas fans…” – Kirkus Reviews

“This book blew me away… make sure you read this book!” – Literary Love Books

Available Formats:

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The Blossom and the Firefly by  Sherri L. Smith

blossom and the fireflyJapan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country… until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day… until she meets Taro.

A song will bring them together. The war will tear them apart. Is it possible to live an entire lifetime in eight short days?

Sherri L. Smith has been called “an author with astonishing range” and “a stellar storyteller” by E. Lockhart, the New York Times-bestselling author of We Were Liars, and “a truly talented writer” by Jacqueline Woodson, the National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming. Here, with achingly beautiful prose, Smith weaves a tale of love in the face of death, of hope in the face of tragedy, set against a backdrop of the waning days of the Pacific War.

Description from Goodreads.

“Impeccably researched… fast-paced and compelling.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Through meticulous research, Smith immerses her readers in a war narrative not often told to American readers, as well as a conflict-filled love story.” – The Horn Book, STARRED REVIEW

“Smith’s beautifully written book examines the strength and limits of patriotism, while also being a quiet portrait of deep love… This is the kind of high-stakes love story that will leave readers stressed and sighing in equal measure, yet grateful to have seen the portrait of these two lives.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

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The Man in the Red Coat by  Julian Barnes

man in the red coatIn the Summer of 1885, three Frenchmen arrived in London for a few days’ shopping: a prince, a count, and a commoner with an Italian name. In time, each of these men would achieve a certain level of renown, but who were they then and what was the significance of their sojourn to England? Answering these questions, Julian Barnes unfurls the stories of their lives, playing out against the backdrop of the Belle Époque in Paris. Our guide through this world is Samuel Pozzi, the society doctor, free-thinker and man of science with a famously complicated private life, and the subject of one of John Singer Sargent’s greatest portraits.

In this vivid tapestry of people (Henry James, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Proust, James Whistler, among many others), place, and time, we see not merely an epoch of glamour and pleasure, but, surprisingly, one of violence, prejudice and nativism–with more parallels to our own age than we might imagine. The Man in the Red Coat is, at once, a fresh portrait of the Belle Époque; an illuminating look at the longstanding exchange of ideas between Britain and France; and a life of a man who lived passionately in the moment but whose ideas and achievements were far ahead of his time.

Description from Goodreads.

“A fresh, urbane history of the dramatic and melodramatic belle epoque… Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Julian Barnes is up to his old tricks in his new book, and admirers of Flaubert’s Parrot or A History of the World in 10½ Chapters will again be charmed by the dry wit and playful erudition in a slim volume that evades any tidy category of fact or fiction… a belle époque delight.” – The Telegraph

“[A] beguiling hybrid of a book… an artfully woven non-fiction account of life, love and art in the France of the Belle Époque… this richly textured portrait of Pozzi and his friends does hold up a mirror to our own ‘hyperventilating times’.” – Financial Times

Available Formats:

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Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction by  David Enrich

dark towersOn a rainy Sunday in 2014, a senior executive at Deutsche Bank was found hanging in his London apartment. Bill Broeksmit had helped build the 150-year-old financial institution into a global colossus, and his sudden death was a mystery, made more so by the bank’s efforts to deter investigation. Broeksmit, it turned out, was a man who knew too much.

In Dark Towers, award-winning journalist David Enrich reveals the truth about Deutsche Bank and its epic path of devastation. Tracing the bank’s history back to its propping up of a default-prone American developer in the 1880s, helping the Nazis build Auschwitz, and wooing Eastern Bloc authoritarians, he shows how in the 1990s, via a succession of hard-charging executives, Deutsche made a fateful decision to pursue Wall Street riches, often at the expense of ethics and the law.

Soon, the bank was manipulating markets, violating international sanctions to aid terrorist regimes, scamming investors, defrauding regulators, and laundering money for Russian oligarchs. Ever desperate for an American foothold, Deutsche also started doing business with a self-promoting real estate magnate nearly every other bank in the world deemed too dangerous to touch: Donald Trump. Over the next twenty years, Deutsche executives loaned billions to Trump, the Kushner family, and an array of scandal-tarred clients, including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Dark Towers is the never-before-told saga of how Deutsche Bank became the global face of financial recklessness and criminality—the corporate equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction. It is also the story of a man who was consumed by fear of what he’d seen at the bank—and his son’s obsessive search for the secrets he kept.

Description from Goodreads.

New York Times finance editor Enrich’s immersion in this shadowy world of monetary malfeasance shows how the disreputable world of big-stakes banking could topple an equally unscrupulous president.” – Booklist

“Part exposé, part mystery, Enrich’s account is important because it illuminates Deutsche Bank’s excesses and Trump’s business practices. Readers of Andrew Sorkin’s Too Big To Fail, which unveiled vulnerabilities in the financial industry, will find Enrich’s more focused account equally compelling.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Journalist Enrich (The Spider Network) wraps an exposé of Deutsche Bank’s financial misdeeds around an adopted son’s investigation into his father’s suicide in this propulsive, richly detailed account… Enrich writes with verve, making financial jargon accessible to general readers. This journalistic tour de force hints that plenty of shocking secrets are yet to be revealed.” – Publishers Weekly

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