Thursday, August 28, 2008

Christopher Reich: Numbered Account

I’ve read several books by Christopher Reich, but Numbered Account was his first. I decided to re-read it. I figured it must have been good, or I would never have bought any more. I was right.

Nick Neumann is a top grad from Harvard Business School, and gives up a prestigious job on Wall Street to move to Zurich and work for the United Swiss Bank. Nick has dual US /Swiss citizenship, because his father had been Swiss. Nick’s father came to the US when Nick was very young to open the Los Angeles Branch of the USB. Nicks father had been murdered in LA in a crime that had never been solved. After Nick’s mother died, he found some evidence linking his father’s death to his work at the bank. So he took the USB job with the ulterior motive of finding out what happened.

All the bank top officers remember Nicks father. The Chairman, Wolfgang Kaiser, takes a special interest in Nick because of the relationship. Other main characters that befriend Nick at the bank are his boss/mentor Peter Sprecher, and the HR manager Dr. Sylvia Schon. But as the plot thickens, how much can Nick trust them?

Shortly after Nick’s arrival, business becomes complicated when Klaus Konig, Chairman of the Adler Bank, launches a hostile takeover attempt against the USB. Kaiser appears willing to do anything to thwart him.

A significant amount of business in Nick’s department is funds passing in and out of a specific numbered account. No one seems to know who the owner is, but they call him “The Pasha”. What we learn, although Nick does not know, is that The Pasha is building a small army at his compound in Lebanon, with plans for a dramatic incident in Israel.

Further complicating Nick’s situation is that the US DEA is trying to penetrate Swiss Banking secrecy to track drug money. They gain an agreement with the Swiss government that allows obvious laundering activity to be reported.

When The Pasha’s account number appears on the official watch list, Nick has to confront his loyalties to the bank, the US, and to his own quest. How do you balance dealing with a potentially dangerous client, the US government, a hostile takeover, personal relationships, and a family mystery?

Numbered Account lives up to the “thriller” classification. The problems are challenging, the characters compelling, and action fast paced. It’s hard to put the book down. Ten years after the first read, I was still on the edge of my seat, since I could not remember how it all came out.

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