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Predatory Bender by Matthew Lee

Publishers: Inner City Press 2004 ISBN:   0974022414

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

This is actually two books in one. To call it a financial novel or a financial thriller would not be correct 100 percent. Predatory Bender is unlike any book I have ever read.

Predatory Bender is based on the field of high interest Rate consumer lending. With numerous offers, radical innovations and even more heavy advertisement, the ordinary man is taken for a ride by banks, financial institutions and the types. There is a slang usage in India for such type of institutions or loan sharks- ‘blades’- for the cut throat interest they charge. Pampering you with ‘never- before- offers’, freebies and what not, the consumer is mesmerized and he unknowingly and willingly becomes a pawn in the hands of such persons/ institutions. Thus the horrors of a man, Jack Bender, caught in such a trap, here a bank by name EmpiGroup is described vividly in Predatory Bender.  How Bender tries to turn tables and tries to escape from the ‘blades’ is the story of the work.

Predatory Bender is fiction- rather fact-ion. But the more interesting part is Predatory Lender- a guide to how one can stay away from such dangers and at the same time get the most of low- cost loans without resorting to high interest rate banking. And in that sense Predatory Lender is a perfect consumer guide.

I enjoyed the work- as a lawyer let me tell you- the author sure knows his stuff well. At the same time legal as well as banking jargon are kept at a minimum.

A must read for the consumer society of this Millennium- Predatory Bender and Predatory Lending are recommended solid read.  



A Pawn for a Queen by Fiona Buckley

Publisher: Scribner; ISBN: 0743202651

Happiness is finding a new book by a good writer.  Bliss is finding two books.   

Fiona Buckley, whose fertile imagination has given us the original female secret agent, Mistress Ursula Blanchard, has produced two books this year, excellent news for those who are able to curl up somewhere warm and indulge themselves in an orgy of post-Christmas reading.

Book Six in Fiona Buckley's Ursula Blanchard Series, "A Pawn for a Queen" begins with an appeal by Ursula's odious aunt and uncle.  They suspect their son is involved in something dangerous.  Knowing that Ursula has undertaken many secret missions for the Queen and Sir William Cecil, they know she is discreet and may be able to extract the misguided Edward from whatever treasonous mess he has stumbled into.  The family are Catholic partisans and have always despised Ursula for her Protestant beliefs, and her illegitimate birth.  As well, they blame her for stealing away the young man who was to marry their daughter.  This is hardly the cast from "Happy Families" and one wonders why Ursula doesn't tell them to get lost. 

Ursula accepts the charge, with the understanding that she's only doing it because it may be in the interest of Queen Elizabeth, not because she has any great fondness for Edward and his parents.  She will only carry on as long as the Queen's interests march with the family's.   The pursuit of Edward is blizzard-wracked and slow, but when Ursula finally catches up, he is dead, murdered in his bed. 

Along the cold road north, Ursula makes the acquaintance of several more or less hospitable families who may not be what they seem, and who appear again later in the story.  After arriving in Edinburgh and inveigling her way into Queen Mary's inner circle, Ursula discovers a snarl of motives for Edward's murder.  Even though she disliked him, she is determined to get to the truth: she has a bloodhound's determination to follow any trail to its ending.   

A clutch of handsome men including the ill fated Lord Darnley, the Earl of Bothwell, Sir Brian Dormbois, and Rob Henderson, Ursula's former comrade in espionage, are buzzing around the Queen, who is presented by this author as a sweet but politically naïve character.  The appearance of Henderson adds a new dimension to the story: if he's here, then it's possible that Edward's murder is somehow tied up with that old basilisk William Cecil, and perhaps Queen Elizabeth herself. 

While Ursula is trying to figure out how and why Henderson is involved, she is courted and kidnapped by Sir Brian Dormbois, who is determined Ursula will be the third Lady Dormbois.  Ursula is horrified and fascinated in equal parts: she makes a sort of devil's bargain with Sir Brian but finds herself outwitted.  The sudden discovery of who wielded the knife that killed Edward, under the direction of Rob Henderson and therefore ultimately under orders from the Queen of England makes Ursula all the more determined to escape.  This she accomplishes in a very Elizabethan, not to say Machiavellian, way. 

Safely over the border with her faithful servants, who have been tried to the very edge of their forbearance by this latest adventure, Ursula is summoned to Hampton Court by the Queen, who is, in the words of a later queen, "not amused".  Ursula prepares for the worst, perhaps to be thrown into the Tower for having hared off to Scotland and meddled in royal matters without permission.   

She does get a right royal chewing out, but she also gets an unexpected bonus: Cecil and the Queen have discovered the identity of Ursula's father.  (The attentive reader will gasp and say "But of course!  I suspected that all along!" based on the clues scattered lightly through the previous books.) 

 This information and its possible ramifications makes Ursula all the more determined to retire to her country house with her small daughter and live the quiet life.  It is obvious that she will get no peace unless she takes a third husband to be a buffer between her and the world, so Ursula hits on the perfect candidate and requests Cecil to play matchmaker.   

At the end of Book Six in the Mistress Ursula Blanchard series it looks as if our heroine has finally come to calm waters where she can relax, raise her child, and drop out of the political maelstrom.   Ah, but we suspect otherwise, don't we, gentle reader?  Stay tuned for the Seventh volume in this compelling series. 

                                                            Review by Karen Radford Treanor


Prey by Michael Crichton

Publisher: HarperCollins; ISBN: 0066214122

Michael Crichton has done it again. After the stupendous success of Airframe and Timeline, Crichton in his latest thriller delivers a page turning suspense read that combines the technical wizardry seen in Jurassic Park, the spine chilling terror felt in The Andromeda Strain and the nail-biting forebode- ness of Sphere in this work, most appropriately, but simply titled - Prey.

At the outset itself let me say, I am not really fond of Techno thrillers, the jargon is often too much for me- but Crichton is an exception and over the years I have collected and read each and every one of his books (available over here in India). The greatest facet of the Crichton works is the amount of research the author has put into them,- such that the line between fact and fiction becomes soooo.. blurred and a totally unbelievable plot (say for eg.- dinosaur cloning in Jurassic Park, time travel in Timeline, etc.)  becomes rooted in reality.

Jack Forman, though a scientist by vocation is out of job and a ‘househusband’ while his wife Julia is top brass executive at Xymos, a company engaged in molecular manufacturing and nano-technology. (What is nano technology, well for the uninitiated it is for you guys to find out like the way I did, READ THE BOOK). Relation between the spouses is far from normal and Jack believes that Julia is having an affair. However, soon Jack is called to work on a problem at Xymos in the Nevada Desert. An experiment has gone awry and a cloud, rather a swarm, of nano particles is on the lose- it is intelligent, it is growing powerful by the minute, and is reproducing at a fast rate- and for all purposes it is a monster, a powerful techno predator. And what follows is a nail-biting suspense read on the efforts of a handful of persons to stop the growing threat, before it consumes- everything.

I finished the book in 5 hours, and those five hours gave me the most powerfully engrossing and chilling read. Really, really enjoyed it. The best suspense read of 2002

                                                                    -  Narayan Radhakrishnan


Windy City Dying by Eleanor Taylor Bland 

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN: 0312320485

When 16 year old Graciela Lara is killed in her foster home, the first suspect is Jose Ortiz, another foster child living in the same home.  But Lincoln Prairie Detective Marti MacAlister, in her 11th outing,  has trouble completely accepting that.  Marti had had an encounter with Jose 4 years previously, along with 4 other homeless juveniles, and the memory of their sad young lives still haunts her.  So she’s doing all she can to make sure Jose gets the justice he deserves, and is treated fairly by an uncaring system.  Unaware to Marti and her partner ,Vic, however, is that there is a conspiracy of revenge at work, and many more will die before the detectives can put it all together, with Marti being the ultimate target of the madman’s revenge.         

Marti MacAlister is compassionate, driven, and as tough as the streets she is committed to protecting.  And Bland’s unblinking look at the lives of unwanted children is both heart-breaking and distressingly authentic.  Targeting a system that punishes rather than rehabilitates, one that treats these sad young lives as already wasted and gone, and one that only compounds the problems facing these thrown away children, Bland makes a strong social statement that deserves to be heard.  Along with that, of course, is plenty of suspense, strong characterization, and simply just a darned good story.


Murder on Ice by Alina Adams 

Publisher: Prime Crime  ISBN: 0425193071

Reviewer: John A. Broussard

World Figure Skating Championships have produced plenty of news beyond the performance of athletes.  Everything from judges being bribed to maiming of rivals have been feature stories over the years.  So it takes no great suspension of disbelief to accept the plot of this book, where once again there may have been a corrupt judge.  This time, though, she shows up dead shortly after the competition.  Bex Levy, researcher for 24/7, the network with exclusive rights to telecast the performances, is convinced that the death—ruled an accident by the local police—may in fact be murder.  Her boss not only shares that conviction, but also insists that Bex find the murderer before the final exhibition matches. 

MURDER ON ICE is one of those surprising novels that appears to have an unpromising setting.  But the reader doesn’t really have to know the difference between a Lutz-double loop combination and a triple salchow.  Adams’ writing skills bring out the raging competitiveness of figure skating and the weird world of TV sports production through the unusual device of her protagonist’s interviews of the various suspects.  That’s the core of the book and it’s done amazingly well, with a memorable protagonist plagued by her need to keep her job, her concern with political correctness, and her jaundiced view of colleagues and the people she reports on.



 Publisher: Mira Books ISBN: 1551667371
     At the age of 17 Jewel Jordan and the infant daughter of her best friend escaped a commune that was being destroyed by ATF agents.
     Fifteen years later anchor woman Julie Jones is meeting with a man who is blackmailing her.  She steps into the bathroom, and when she returns, she finds the man with his throat slashed.  Also, the envelope with her material is missing.  Julie becomes the prime suspect. When she learns that her 16 year old daughter is being stalked, the only person she can turn to for help is her new co-anchor. 
     Sean MacKenzie, sleazy radio reporter, knows that Julie has secrets and he is determined to dig them out.  When he is hired to co-anchor the news with Julie, the animosity between them burns the air waves, and the ratings shoot up, but the more Sean digs into Julie's life, the more determined he becomes to help her.
     The main characters in this novel have strong personalities, and when pitted against each other,  the action becomes intense.  With a plot that is so tightly woven, and moves so swiftly, the reader will loose track of time and find it difficult to put the book down.  Recommended. 

                                                                Reviewed by Donna Padilla


Sons of Fortune By  Jeffrey Archer   

Publisher: St. Martin's Press; (January 7, 2003) ISBN 0312313195

Jeffrey Archer has been in news for quite some time and not for his books. Having been imprisoned for perjury, put on suicide watch it seemed that Archer’s writing career had come to an end.

Since the publication of The Eleventh Commandment in 1997, Archer had stayed away from novel writing. Save for the publication of a collection of short stories (To Cut a Long Story Short) and a play (The Accused), Archer had all but stayed away from the genre (thriller novel) that gave him the title ‘the greatest storyteller of the modern times’.

Being a regular Archer reader, I eagerly picked up Sons of Fortune, and friends, let me tell you, it is fantabulous. The book is a story of two twins who are separated at birth, each pursuing his own avocation, and finally meeting, rather clashing with each other in a race for Governorship.

            Nat Cartwright and Fletcher Davenport though are twins (un-identical twins) born on the same day, and are separated at birth, Nat goes on to live with his parents while Fletcher goes home with a millionaire family. Both boys, and their parents are unaware of each other’s existence and pursue their own life in different fields. Nat becomes a celebrated Military hero and later a successful currency dealer, while Fletcher becomes a reputed criminal lawyer. Both marry- Nat to a Korean American Su Ling, and Fletcher his childhood sweetheart Annie. Life is well and good for both, but the problem arises when both decide to join politics, and decide to stand for election…it results in a clash best described as the clash of the Titans.

            Sons of Fortune is a solid read. Though about 500 pages in length, it is a page-turner in the truest sense of the term. Archer’s captivating narration keeps us glued to the pages, and the traditional ‘Archer touch’ makes Sons of Fortune an enthralling read. Loved the book. Absolutely loved the book.

                                                        Narayan Radhakrishnan