Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: Deadly Portfolio by John J. Holm

Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge FundsIn his first novel, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds, John J. Hohn exhibits a mastery of plot and character development. Four families are drawn into a tragedy that claims three lives in their lakeside neighborhood. Detective James Raker, a widower struggling with his own grief, bucks his superiors when he concludes all three deaths are related. Pelican Bay may have appeared . . . serene and bucolic, but in the deep, cool shadows of the elms and maples, the hypnotic lapping of the waves, pain and terror dropped out of the breeze from the lake. . . . Raker is on his own to prove his case and stop the killer from striking again.

Hohn's gripping plot unfolds with cinematic vividness as Raker considers his suspects. Neighbor Dr. Tom Sherman's second wife, Joyce, wants to break free of the hateful struggle with stepson, Jaime, a college. "No. You won't," Joyce shouted (at her husband), "You'll yell at him, and he'll think I put you up to it. You'll leave and then, if anything, matters will get worse." Sherman's professional demeanor crumbles in the face of his failure with his wife and his son.

Stockbroker Morrie Clay and his wife, Monica, live the good life with their two sons--summers at lakeside; winter in a sumptuous city home. "So, that's it? Those two beautiful sons of ours went off this morning like nothing in their world is wrong. Michael's enthusiastic and innocent . . . still so much a boy. 'You can't fail,'" Monica said. "I can't look at this beautiful life we've made for ourselves and know that it could all go away . . . ." Threatening their dreams is client Alan J. McAllister who suspects that Clay is guilty of unauthorized trading and forgery. 

McAllister wants to change brokers to keep peace in his own marriage. About her he muses, . . .they would fight later, perhaps just before bed, but if not then, in the morning, hung over and full of loathing for one another, and he rehearsed his come-backs quietly to himself . . . .

The narrative moves nimbly as each family deals with the events of the summer. Building momentum, the author comfortably changes pace with detailed flashbacks that provide insight into his characters.
Hohn's imagery is crisp. A breeze induced a slight roll to the lake, and the sun, lower on the horizon, struck the upper branches of the trees, gilding them with a coppery brilliance and then skipped half way across the bay where the waves winked into the retreating light. Lights from neighboring homes began to glow in the shadows and the neighborhood was quiet except for the desultory robins greeting the onset of a dusk scented with bar-be-que lighter fluid and hickory smoke--an evening that full-filled everything that Morrie had ever wanted when he re-turned home.,

The author delivers a powerful climatic ending. Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds overlays mystery on the year market plunged and tragedy struck four families who felt that they had it made. Adult. Mystery. Some strong language. Some sexual content.

Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets three stars.  It was an interesting story but a bit on the long side.  The dialogue also felt a bit off to me.  The characters weren't exactly likable but they felt real.  Overall this was a solid first novel from the author that should be the beginning of a nice career.  I'd recommend this to those who enjoy legal type mysteries such as a John Grisham, as the style feels very similar.

★★☆☆ = Liked It


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