I do not usually request ARCs because there is a lot of pressure to get them read and reviewed in a timely manner. (Which is totally reasonable, because they are basically paying me a book in exchange for my review, so I don’t think it’s unfair for reviewers to expect to see those reviews sometime within a month or so.) However, I am still on the email list for Bethany House, and request only one or two books a year from them. I received The Domino Effect free of charge, but it doesn’t impact my review.
The official synopsis from the back cover says:
Esther Larsen, a top risk analyst at one of the country’s largest banking institutions, is becoming more and more convinced that she has uncovered a ticking bomb with the potential to make the 2008 market crash look minor by comparison. And as her own employer pursues “investment” strategies with ever-increasing levels of risk, she becomes convinced she must do something. But Esther is only one person; can she stand up to an international conspiracy of greed? And if she does, will anyone take her seriously?
Every moment of indecision edges the markets closer to a tipping point – the teetering first domino in a standing row that circles the globe. And when Esther finds her voice, those she seeks to expose will not sit idly by. With global markets on the brink, and her own life in danger, Esther is locked in a race against the clock to avert a financial tsunami that threatens worldwide devastation.
I really liked the premise of the story, and Esther herself is a likable character. A mathematical genius, Esther still manages to not fit the “geek” stereotype so often portrayed in these types of books. I really liked her independence, intelligence, and courage.
For those of my readers who may not be familiar, the book of Esther in the Bible is set during a time that Israel had been conquered and Jews were being persecuted for their faith. Esther, through a series of events, became queen – but those in power did not know that she was a Jewess. Her position enabled her to save the lives of her people when an evil man sought to destroy them. As Esther’s uncle told her – “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Honestly, Esther is a gripping read that I highly recommend, even if you aren’t really interested in God or religion.)
Point being, it’s obvious that Bunn is making some connections between the historic tale of Esther and his Esther set in current times. One young woman, in a position of knowledge and power, able to take risks and speak out against the powers that be in order to save the lives of many others. In Bunn’s story, Esther’s father named Esther after the Biblical character, and although Esther has not been particularly interested in religion throughout her adult life, the many circumstances and “coincidences” of what is happening to her currently begin to draw her back to her childhood faith.
In the end, though, this book just wasn’t enough of a thriller to really engage me. Bunn had to spend a lot of time explaining all the terms and activities of investment banking and stock investments, so there were multiple chapters that felt rather lecture-y, even though the lectures were brought into the story through more-or-less natural conversations. And while I agreed with pretty much everything Bunn had to say about the current state of today’s markets, the story just came across as basically polemic. I also found myself wondering if this book would even be interesting to someone in say, five or ten years: the story is very much set TODAY with lots of references to the 2008 crash and other specific dates and events.
There was also an entire subplot with Esther’s brother that added virtually nothing to the main thrust of the story – I thought maybe it would tie back in somehow, but it honestly didn’t.
I never really bought the concept that Esther was in danger. The bad guys just didn’t seem bad enough, and most of Esther’s challenges were just overcoming her own reluctance to speak out, not fighting against any outside sources. There were some halfhearted attempts on her life, but it never felt legit. There weren’t any moments in this book where I couldn’t read fast enough. The pacing felt rather slow, and the ending kind of abrupt.
While I liked the characters in the story, especially Esther, I was never completely invested in their futures.
So, overall, a decent 3/5 read. Engaging enough to make me interested in picking up another of Bunn’s works, but I don’t give a particularly hearty recommendation to this one.