Numbered Account – Reich bifurcates his novel between the intricacies of Swiss banking and one fast-paced thriller.
Christopher Reich has written what I would call a bifurcated novel. Numbered Account literally splits into two equal pieces. The first half is a cerebral portrayal of the intricacies of Swiss banking and the extremes to which Swiss banks go to protect their most valued depositors. Then, halfway through Numbered Account, an unlikely murder takes place. From then on, bodies pile up. Reich’s novel turns into a gut-wrenching high-paced thriller, wholly physical, not cerebral at all.
Reich’s hero is Nicholas Neumann, an ex-Marine with a newly-minted Harvard M.B.A. and a fast-track job on Wall Street. When his mother dies, however, he comes across some old papers of his father’s, papers that hint at what might have caused his father’s death seventeen years before. At the time, Nick’s father was an employee of the United Swiss Bank. Shot dead while hiding in a friend’s house, Alexander’s murder was never solved. Now Nick sees a way forward. He quits his lucrative Wall Street position and heads for Zurich, where he’ll work in Financial Client Management at the United Swiss Bank and where he’ll search for the secrets surrounding his father’s death.
The head of the bank is an old friend of Nick’s father and knew Nick as a boy. Now the venerable Wolfgang Kaiser takes the eager young man under his wing and sets him off on a new fast track toward success. As I wrote at the outset, at first, Numbered Account moves slowly. Nick must learn the intricacies of his new position. In particular, he must memorize the various protocols for handling clients who wish to remain anonymous. One such man, code-named Pasha, calls in twice weekly to deposit millions of dollars at a time. Nick, in his new position, must verify Pasha’s orders and then transfer the money to other anonymous numbered accounts in banks spread throughout the world. Money laundering? Perhaps. But the United Swiss Bank respects its clients’ eccentricities and keeps its transactions secret.
Enter the Feds. The United States, attempting to trace the transfers of such vast sums, wants cooperation from any and all Swiss banks. A particularly aggressive agent leads the way. He’s looking for trafficking; his superiors are more interested in the selling and buying of munitions. The United Swiss Bank, and Nick, are caught in the middle. Not only must they keep their clients’ names to themselves, but they must also continue their banking practices without getting on the wrong side of international authorities. Even if they suspect wrongdoing, they will honor their neutrality.
As any reader might guess, this is where Numbered Account switches from slow rhythm to fast. Perhaps hectic is a better word to describe Nick’s subsequent adventures as Reich’s narrative picks up its pace. I couldn’t begin to count the violent encounters in the second half of this novel or the bodies that pile up in Zurich and its wintry surroundings. At the same time, rebel forces are mustering along the Syrian border, ready to invade Israel when the right opportunity occurs (and when the right amount of money moves into the right numbered account). No, Nick doesn’t end up in the Arabian desert, but adventures there play a staccato counterpoint to Nick’s own Swiss escapades (and escapes).
I admit, although I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the intricacies of Swiss banking, I found the second half of Numbered Account a bit too graphic for my tastes. But that’s my problem, not Reich’s. He has written a high-pitched thriller that delivers a strong cast of characters, romance, multiple layers of international intrigue, and a plot that never pauses for breath. Numbered Account is a successful exemplar of its genre—a formulaic thriller with an intellectual overlay. I liked it. – Ann Ronald
Also available by Christopher Reich: Runner; The First Billion; The Devil’s Banker, The Patriots’ Club; Rules of Deception; Rules of Vengeance; Rules of Betrayal The Prince of Risk; Invasion Of Privacy; The Take; Crown Jewel; Assassins.
Tags: International intrigue, Swiss banking, Thriller
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