Monday, December 10, 2012

The Darlings by Cristina Alger--a Review

I freely admit that I have no head at all for the world of finance. Wall Street need ever fear I will swoop in and start trading. I admire people who live in that environment and can thrive from it though. After all, it's a great place to make lots of money---or lose everything.

I wasn't sure whether or not I would enjoy The Darlings by Cristina Alger, but when the publisher sent me the paperback version and I started reading, I was hooked! For the most part, it's a fast paced tale ripped right from the headlines and seems to mirror the Bernie Maddoff scandal. Here's the blurb I received on it:

The Darlings is one of the first novels set during the fall of 2008, when New York is reeling from the financial crisis. Bear Stearn, Fanny and Freddy, Lehman Brothers, and AIG have all collapsed. Hedge funds are closing in droves, and Howary LLP, the storied Wall Street law firm where Paul Ross has worked as an attorney for seven years, has imploded after the managing partner is indicted. Fortunately, Paul is married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, who offers him a job as head legal counsel for his massive hedge fund. Thrilled with his good fortune considering the dire economic circumstance of the time, Paul accepts his father-in-law's offer. But shortly thereafter, just as the Darling family is about to depart for Thanksgiving in the Hamptons, a tragic event places them at the center of a media firestorm, a regulatory investigation, and a red-hot financial scandal.

As I read the first half of the book, I found myself really caught up in Paul Ross's world. The Darlings are a prominent family, one that people like to be seen with, and Paul has carefully mastered the ropes of living with them. That being said, he definitely feels the pressure of working for his father-in-law. What I really liked about Paul's character is that you could really feel his stress and worry about his life and his love for Merrill. When things start to fall apart in the family's financial world and it's revealed that a Ponzi type scheme has been occurring, the reader feels just as torn as Paul does over what he should do. I think Ms. Alger did an excellent job of making him a believable character that we can care about.

In fact, I would say that all of the characters are well developed and I suspect from reading Ms. Alger's bio, that this is a world that she has traveled in herself. She has an inkling or two about what is going through the mind of the "good" guys and the "bad" guys in this tale.  It's that unique perspective that makes her writing flow and keeps the page turning.

That being said, I did feel that the novel slowed down a bit in the middle and I had some trouble keeping the character's straight. After all, it takes a lot of people who may or may not know anything about what's really going on for a scheme like this to work and sometimes sorting out who's who was a little tedious. I found myself wanting to skip ahead a bit to get to the action and find out the answer to the big question--what will Paul do? This story does have a twist at the end which I won't reveal, but I sort of suspected the surprise. I've read too many mysteries, too many thrillers, not to see that one coming.

In the end, this was a book that I really enjoyed. I hadn't kept up with the Bernie Madoff scandal as well as others. Hey, I'm a teacher--it's not like I have any money to invest! So for me, part of the charm of this story was learning more about the intricate world New York finance. I suspect that for those who are familiar with those things, this story may not be all that new.

The paperback version is coming out Dec. 21 and would make a great last minute stocking stuffer! Here is the Amazon link in case you are interested in pre-ordering.

The Darlings--Amazon Paperback Pre-Order

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