Picks and Pans Review: Free to Trade

updated 04/03/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/03/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Michael Ridpath

I had lost half a million dollars in slightly less than half an hour and the coffee machine didn't work. This was turning into a bad day," muses Paul Murray, a former Olympic runner currently managing portfolios for a London financial house. The day soon turns into a nightmare. Shortly after colleague Debbie Chater uncovers an irregularity in a bond issue that their firm is involved in, her body is discovered floating in the Thames.

Paul is drawn into the mysteries of her death and the bond deal. Bouncing from London to New York City, Phoenix and Las Vegas, he peels off the layers of a convoluted scheme. Along the way he is accused of insider trading and even of Debbie's murder. After a satisfying course of violence, romance and high-rolling paper chases, justice eventually prevails. But what gives this story legs is Paul's character. Like a Dick Francis protagonist, he's a plucky amateur whose persistence only grows as more cards are stacked against him. And in this fine first turn around the track—movie rights have been optioned, and the book is a blockbuster in England—Ridpath himself seems a thoroughbred of promise. (Harper Collins, $23)

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