Sunday, July 8, 2018

Book Review: "The Banker's Wife" by Cristina Alger

Despite taking place in 2015, Cristina Alger's newest novel, The Banker's Wife, definitely has a bit of a ripped-from-the-headlines feel to it, without being sensationalist.

One snowy morning at an airport in London, amidst chaos caused by multiple travel delays, a couple quietly boards a private jet bound for Geneva. Not long after, the plane drops off of the radar, and later, wreckage is found in the Alps. Investigators suspect weather-related issues, despite the skill of the pilot.

One of the passengers on the plane was Matthew Werner, a banker for the powerful Swiss United, which houses countless offshore accounts for some of the world's wealthiest—and most notorious. Matthew's young wife, Annabel, didn't even know Matthew was in London, and honestly didn't know much about her husband's clients or the work he did, but she knew that it paid for an opulent lifestyle beyond anything she dreamed of. But she found this life, associating with his rich colleagues, to be lonely—sometimes having it all doesn't really mean having it all.

Devastated at the loss of her husband, she is unprepared for the questions that Matthew's death raises. It seems as if her husband had more secrets than she imagined, and she can't help but wonder just what they had to do with his death? Why does it seem like the investigation into the plane crash is being rushed? The more she begins to look into what her husband left behind, the more she suspects that Matthew's death might not have been an accident, and she might be in danger herself, no matter how little she actually knows.

Meanwhile, journalist Marina Tourneau has the job she's always dreamed of, as a top editor at a society magazine. But now that she's engaged to Grant Ellis, the handsome son of multi-billionaire James Ellis, the financier expected to declare his candidacy for President of the United States, it's time to leave her career behind and concentrate on being part of one of the country's richest and most powerful families. She's ready for all that life entails, but she knows she'll miss the thrill of chasing a story.

When her editor-in-chief and mentor, Duncan Sander, asks for her help on one more story, she can't pass up the chance, especially when she knows it deals with the one case which has obsessed Duncan for years. When Duncan is found dead, Marina realizes she's stepping into dangerous territory, but she knows she needs to uncover the truth for Duncan's sake. And when the truths she uncovers about the secrets that Swiss United is hiding, some of which hit closer to home than she expects, she needs to decide whether the pursuit of truth is worth sacrificing everything—including her own safety.

The Banker's Wife alternates between Marina and Annabel's stories, and the danger both find themselves in as they try to understand the secrets that Swiss United is hiding, and discover just how their lives are linked to it all. Even though some of this story unfolds just as you'd expect it to, Alger still throws in some twists and turns, and keeps the suspense coming.

I'm always a little dubious when companies seem to have people at their disposal whose only purpose is to spy on others and cause trouble, but it didn't bother me too much here. I really enjoyed this book and the way the story unfolded, although Alger spent a little too much time dwelling on the financial details of the plot, which made my eyes glaze over a bit. But again, the flashbacks to my short-lived foray into a college economics class didn't detract from my enjoyment of this story.

I loved Alger's last book, the very different This Was Not the Plan (see my review), but if you read her first book, The Darlings (I haven't), there are definitely some references to that book here. However, this was definitely a standalone book.

If you love compelling thrillers and seeing just how different and dysfunctional (and dangerous) the rich can be, check out The Banker's Wife. You'll be hooked!

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