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17 January 2015

Michael Sears: Black Fridays: A Novel (Jason Stafford Book 1)

Excellent Financial Thriller with Heart
Jason Stafford was the first one of his class to become a Managing Director of a major Wall Street investment house and the first one in his class to go to jail. A small correction to a trade that snowballs into numerous corrections eventually leads to two years lonely and difficult incarceration.

Leaving jail Jason is facing a life alone, His wife has left him and taken his autistic five-year old and he could end up working in menial jobs because he is no longer welcome on Wall Street. But then a chance phone call has him working again on Wall Street on a short-term lucrative contract to look for irregularities in the books of a junior trader whose body has just been pulled out of the water. It's a case of using someone who knows how to fool the system to find out about someone who may have also fooled the system (just as many hackers find great jobs in computer security).

Jason also wants to get custody of his child from an alcoholic former wife. He finds "Kid" locked up by his mother-in-law because he is uncontrollable and takes him away to live with him in New York. Jason can't read or communicate well but he has an almost eclectic memory and can recite word-perfect descriptions of automobiles from memory that have been read to him.

Jason finds traces of a huge financial scam which has been hidden for years that is far bigger than one trader. But soon he's facing intimidation and threats, more people are dying and the FBI is involved. At the same time Jason is facing up to raising an extremely difficult autistic five-year-old alone, a major undertaking which brings great stress but great joy as "Kid" starts to connect with his father, There is a constant danger that his ex-wife and thug of a new husband may take legal action to take "Kid" away from him.

While Jason may be the hero of the book, despite his incarceration he is still infected by the Wall Street buzz of "money moving quickly. A drug that once ingested doesn't ever leave your system". This leaves him vulnerable to the pressures of the Street and he still has amoral traits that he can't resist.

This is a very well written financial thriller about very complex Wall Street trading arrangements which are described so that a layman can understand what is happening. The financial story is compulsive but what gives this book the edge are the heart-warming scenes of Jason's relationship with his son and the descriptions of the problems of autism.

This is an excellent debut novel about Wall Street but it is Jason's struggles as a single-parent that makes it stand out from the crowd. I see that Sears has written two more books in the Jason Stafford series and I will certainly read them soon.

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