Friday, September 21, 2012

Jenn's Review: Black Fridays

Summary:  Sometimes a man can be redeemed. But not in the way he expects.

Jason Stafford is a former Wall Street hotshot who made some bad moves, paid the price with two years in prison, and is now trying to put his life back together. He’s unemployable, until an investment firm asks him to look into possible problems left by a junior trader who died recently in an accident. What he discovers is big – there are problems, all right, the kind that get you killed.

But it’s not his only concern. Stafford has another quest as well: to reclaim his five-year-old son, “the Kid,” from his unstable ex-wife, and then learn just what it means to make a life with him. The things Stafford discovers about himself in the process are every bit as gripping as his investigation, and when the two threads of his life come together – the results are unforgettable.

Review:  Black Fridays was surprisingly hard to put down considering I have no interest in Wall Street or stock trading. The writing is completely engaging, right from the first paragraph:

THE WOMAN SCREAMED for the first three seconds. Three seconds took her down only fourteen stories— she still had twenty- four to go. She fainted. Her arms and legs stopped flailing, her body went limp.  

What a fabulous opening!  It was the characters, however, that drew me in and the mystery that kept me there.

I wouldn't say Jason was a particularly easy-to-like character, but he really grew on me. I suppose it takes a certain personality to go into that business and a more particular personality to do what he did. Jason is repentant, but I wouldn't characterize him as reformed. It takes pretty spectacular writing to pull that off and Michael Sears walks the line admirably. In the end, I still can't quite say I like Jason Stafford, but I sure as hell respect him.  Mostly that has to do with what I found to be the most compelling part of the story,  Jason's autistic son and his struggle to not only help him, but to keep him.

I was rather impressed with Michael Sears' ability to make the subject matter accessible.  It wasn't oversimplified, but it was clear enough that a novice like me could navigate through it.  From the  outset I thought I knew the culprit, but I was only part right.  There are twists and turns I didn't see coming and a final twist that I really hope doesn't come back to bight Jason.  Mr. Sears also found the perfect balance between Jason's personal and business life throughout the novel.  My only complaint is it takes a long time to connect the marvelous opening with the case at hand, but it was brilliant when the connection came through.

All in all, I was very impressed with Michael Sears' debut novel.  I am grateful to the publisher for sending me this book, because I might never have picked it up on my own.  Michael Sears is definitely an author to watch and has made my must read list.

Final Take: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher, Putnam Books, for sending me an ARC of this novel.   



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