Mulholland Books | 2019 (10 January) | 341p | Review copy | Buy the book
Newspaper journalist Marina is on holiday in Paris with her fiancé, Grant. Everything in the world seems beautiful and right. But then Marina takes a phone call late one night from her editor Duncan in the US. Duncan has been on the trail of Morty Reiss for years. Reiss is believed to have committed suicide but Duncan is convinced it was faked and that Reiss is at the centre of an enormous financial conspiracy. Exposing the truth could bring some of the world’s largest and most secretive banks and institutions to their knees. Duncan needs Marina to pick up a USB stick from his source and bring it back to America. It all sounds so simple. And then Duncan is found dead.
Annabel is a banker’s wife. They live a relatively luxurious life in Geneva. Annabel is keen to get back to America and back to her own business as an art dealer but, for the time being, she is supporting her husband Matthew as he settles down in this new role at one of the most prestigious Swiss banks. Then the private plane flying Matthew back from a trip to the UK crashes into the Alps. He is killed along with the glamorous woman he was travelling with. Annabel didn’t even know he had been abroad. None of this sounds like the Matthew who loved her so deeply. Annabel, stricken with grief, is determined to uncover the truth. Matthew’s employer offers Annabel every support, watching her very closely as she begins to dig.
The Banker’s Wife is a very entertaining and smart thriller set in the glamorous world of high finance and politics. It presents a heady mix of powerful financiers and politicians, living elite and luxurious lives, where money exists to fund influence and pleasure. It can also buy solutions to problems. Marina and Annabel don’t know each other and act independently but they soon prove very difficult for this world to ignore. The identity of Annabel’s fiancé adds to the pressure and the tension builds.
I found this book so hard to put down. It has a pleasingly complex plot and creates an enemy that is worthy of the fight. It’s exciting from the very start but the pace builds and builds as we follow the action around exotic locations, stunning houses and dark, perilous roads, twisting their way through the mountains. The chapters alternate between Annabel and Marina and each story is as compelling as the other. As time goes on, other characters’ viewpoints are introduced as the web expands.
My one issue with the thriller, and it’s a very minor point, is the emphasised physical perfection of several of its characters, especially the women. This is a world in which to succeed one must be beautiful and you don’t want to let something like murder, or running for your life, get in the way of looking good. But, having said all that, this novel depicts a glamorous, rather shallow world, there’s almost a fantasy, James Bond-like feel to it. This is not gritty drama played out over the kitchen sink. This thriller plays out in private planes, the poshest hotels and the most stunning countryside.
The Banker’s Wife is certainly well-written, fun and compelling. It kept me guessing, and on the edge of my seat, until the very end. I’m not surprised to hear that it’s to be made into a TV series. It’s perfect for the screen. I’ll look forward to seeing it and I also look forward to reading more by Cristina Alger.