Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Prince of Risk by Christopher Reich - An Engaging Techno-Thriller

A good thriller requires a premise which catches the imagination of the reader by hooking some concern or fear that actually affects the reader, either consciously or unconsciously. It then includes characters who can be identified with in some way that keep the reader engaged as the story develops and maintains its narrative drive. Often the books are characterized by having many short chapters, each ending with a cliff hanger event, or anticipation of one, which drives the reader forward to the next one. Prince of Risk by Christopher Reich (Doubleday, 2013, 386 pages, $25.95) achieves all these elements in a financial/techno thriller that hits all the button, drives the reader through to its exciting and satisfying conclusion, and strikes a note of unintended cynicism for the wary reader about many values and directions in our society. Prince of Risk is certain to be a best seller, appealing particularly to xenophobes and conspiracy theorists, while coming at the reader with a vibrant force that keeps the pages turning almost by themselves.

The novel opens with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the President of the New York Stock Exchange meeting together to discuss an urgent problem. At the urging of the Edward Astor, the Stock Exchange chief, they request a late night meeting with the President of the U.S. Heading to the White House, they get through several security stops, but as they approach the building, the car takes on a will of it's own and rolls toward the portico, but is destroyed before it can do any damage, killing all aboard, but allowing just sufficient time for Astor to text a single word, “Palantir,” to his estranged son, the fabulously successful hedge fund manager, Bobby Astor, whom we meet standing atop the chimney of his Long Island mansion, about to leap into the swimming pool to raise millions of dollars for charity. Shortly after, Bobby Astor's ex-wife Alex Forza, an ambitious FBI agent on the rise as well as a great beauty, informs him of his father's death. The story then cuts to China, where we meet Magnus Lee, in charge of Chinese investments in the financial and political world, who seeks a place in the ruling committee which runs the world's fastest growing and most completely managed society. Thus, all the pieces are in place for a rip-roaring combination of thought provoking plausibilities and plenty of violence with a smattering of sterile sex. Describing more of the action would only take away from the fun of reading this novel.

For readers in this contemporary world, where there's a growing sense that our privacy no longer exists, our freedom is being undermined by forces too big for us to understand, and a government functionary can abscond with a flash drive to release dangerous, and perhaps damaging, information freely to the world and hostile foreign governments, all this takes on a frightening and familiar tone people living in the contemporary world can recognize and incorporate into their world view. Add to that some artifacts of our own fantasy worlds: beauty, success, wealth, Chinese secretive drive for world domination, our own almost frantic competitive urge to not communicate, and the risks of military and technological superiority, coming together to create a rich readers' brew of story-telling. While the characters tend to be stereotypes and the situations become somewhat predictable, Reich skillfully throws in surprising plot devices just as the reader thinks that all is figured out, keeping Prince of Risk an enjoyable journey into a world that fascinates us all, and in whose dark complexity we fervently wish we didn't, at least partially, believe. 

Christopher Reich
Christopher Reich writes about himself, “I was born November 12, 1961 in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Los Angeles four years later, in late 1965. I graduated from Harvard School (now Harvard-Westlake) in 1979, then made the move to Washington DC where I attended the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Upon graduating with a degree in international economics (a field in which I was neither particularly gifted nor interested), I worked as a stock broker for two years. One day my best client said, "Chris, you're a nice guy, but you have no idea what you're doing in this business. You might get into trouble one day. You gotta get your butt to business school." I followed his advice and headed down to Austin, Tx, to earn an MBA at UT. After graduating from UT, I moved even farther east....all the way to Switzerland, where I joined the Union Bank of Switzerland, first in Geneva and then in Zurich. I left banking and worked first as a consultant, and then as the CEO of a small watch company in Neuchatel. The only thing I missed out on was the chocolate business! Anyway, after 7 years in Switzerland, I decided that it was high time to become an author. I'd never written a short story and I hadn't taken a single English class in college. So what? I was a demon reader and I thought for sure I could do. My wonderful wife supported the decision wholeheartedly and we moved back to Austin, where I would write my first novel, Numbered Account.” He is the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Deception, Rules of Vengeance, Rules of Betrayal, Numbered Account, The Devil's Banker, and many others. His novel The Patriots Club won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Novel in 2006. He lives in Encinitas, California.

Christopher Reich's Prince of Risk ((Doubleday, 2013, 386 pages, $25.95) appeals to people who like their thrills professionally and slickly packaged into a first-rate story. I found myself having to put my Kindle down every so often to allow myself to release the tension and process the action. The book's reliance upon technological paranoia and Chinese xenophobia will attract a number of readers who would have it be factual, too. I received the book from the publisher through Edelwiss and read it on my Kindle as an electronic galley.