Trash Lit: 'Reckless' could be ripped from headlines (minus a couple murders)

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Reckless
Andrew Gross
William Morrow, 404 pages, $25.99

Imagine if the head of a powerful banking company with close ties to the federal government conspired with some shady Saudi billionaires and a cruel Serbian ex-military thug to bring down the American financial system in a Darwinian plot that would allow the one firm with insider knowledge to emerge even stronger. How would it play out? Well, minus a few murders, more or less exactly the way the financial-sector meltdown of the past couple of years has played out.

That’s what makes this such a fun book. It’s not the most brilliant thriller ever – the structure involves a lot of flicking back and forth between parallel plots, and gets confusing at times. But the premise is delicious, and the execution is good enough to make it eminently enjoyable.

Reckless starts off nicely, with a Middle Eastern banker set to launch world economic ruin, an American private dick fucking his girlfriend as doom approaches, a Greenwich, Connecticut society divorcee fucking a sexy European stud with a dubious background and a brutal, bloody murder of a securities trader, his wife (who was an old pal of the PI) and one of their kids.

It slows down a bit after that, but not much.

Turns out the dead guy was way underwater in a complex deal. A few more traders, also underwater and scrambling, wind up dead, too. And then the economy really starts to fall – AIG goes under. Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac go under. There’s panic at every level of government.

Meanwhile, the bad guys try to kidnap the mildly retarded son of the PI’s girlfriend after a hockey game, leading to a spectacular hockey-stick-and-knife-in-the-locker-room fight that ends with the PI shoving a sharpened skate into the kidnapper’s chest (neat trick; I always wondered if that would really work).

By the time it all gets sorted out, there’s railroad trestle gun play, a federal agent who’s bleeding to death but still makes a spectacular shot, and an utterly predictable power-out, stuck-in-the-elevator sex scene. Maybe even worth forking over the hardcover price.

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