A fast-moving novel about current day financial chicanery using the Internet
by Trudie Barreras, posted 22 May 2019, Amazon 5 Stars
As always when I receive a request from an author to review a book, I am honored and delighted, but also curious. Peter David Shapiro, in his e-mail request that I consider reviewing his novel “Jacob’s Plan”, indicated he thought from other reviews I’d written on Amazon as part of the Vine program that I might find his story of value. Indeed I did, and as I began to read, I wondered if the recent review I wrote of the non-fiction documentary “Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World” by Oliver Bullough (reviewed March 29 on Amazon) might have tipped him off concerning my potential interest. In any event, the link between Bullough’s exposé and Shapiro’s novel is inescapable.
“Jacob’s Plan” is a first-person, present-tense, fast-moving narrative. As the story opens, we are introduced to the protagonist’s disgust with the current political situation and his fear that things may soon fall apart so drastically that he goes into survivalist mode, stocking his basement with supplies and arming himself with a glock. Also, advised by his Firearms Instructor, he secures an ID card for a fake identity and – having inherited some ancestral property in Canada – sets up a shell corporation to manage that property and simultaneously prepare it as a bolt hole in case he needs to disappear.
From there, of course, the plot thickens. Before any national or global disaster occurs, Jacob is hired by a one-time high school friend to be “VP Strategy” for Dazzle, an online mail order firm which specializes in fine jewelry and so on. At first, this seems on the up and up, but when it turns out that the company has in fact been taken over by shady Ukranian interests, and its largest customers are unidentifiable and highly suspicious, Jacob’s friend (and Dazzle CEO) Sophie decides to go to the FBI, and is mugged. Because she had previously requested that Jacob ingratiate himself with the “difficult” CFO of the firm, Viktor, now that Sophie is hospitalized in a coma it seems imperative to keep up the façade of friendship and try to further investigate the situation on her behalf.
The strength of this novel is definitely the characterization of Jacob himself. A survivalist at heart, none-the-less his self-interest is tempered by a moral compass and a sense of loyalty. As mentioned, the plot is fast moving. Although inevitably tangled in the intricacies of a situation well beyond his control, he “does his best”. His romantic relationships, though respectful and sincere, are thwarted by the circumstances with which he becomes ensnared. However, his concern for the women in his life nicely balances his self-centeredness.
In addition, of course, this novel vividly investigates the impact of the current ease of financial chicanery using the Internet and the vagaries of fiscal law and economic supervision. Although the culmination of the narrative is left intentionally open-ended (a sequel, perhaps?), one hopes that eventually things will get sorted out – which is, indeed, everyone’s hope in this uncomfortable era!
by John Legates, posted 2 September 2019, Amazon 5 Stars
It’s not a “who done it”, not a thriller, not a spy story, not a mystery, not a horror story and not a suspense novel. In fact, forget about categories, except maybe “page turner”. Instead it’s a tour of the shadowy but real world of illegal business and the thugs who run it. This utterly engaging tale takes a man who is so appalled by a thinly-veiled President Trump and the harm he is doing that he creates an escape hatch into a new identity. Nonetheless he is dragged into an underworld that we all suspect but don’t see. The quality of the characters, the situations, the factual base and the logic is clear and vivid. We become Jacob and go through it all with him. Don’t miss this remarkable tour.