Realistic but tiresome financial thriller

Book: The Billionaire’s Funeral

Author: Elijah Brahms

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pages: 258; Price: Rs 299

The Billionaire’s Funeral contains every element of a successful financial thriller, and for this reason it proves a tedious read at best, trying too hard to fit into the genre by substituting adherence to the reality of the corporate world for compelling writing. When billionaire Chadwick Cornelius Cohen, CEO of Redrock Investments, finds each and every one of his credit cards denied at a posh London restaurant, he cannot imagine the maze of lies and deceit into which he will shortly be plunged, as a ruthless hacker systematically unravels his entire life as he knows it.

A global cat-and-mouse chase ensues as Chad is hauled up by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, governments from three continents, and Interpol, in a race to find out just who has embarked on this vicious vendetta. The threat, however, may be closer home than he suspects....

Author Elijah Brahms — a pseudonym for a “senior executive in a multi-billion dollar financial organization who has now turned to other pursuits” — makes his literary debut with this novel, a studied attempt to check all the boxes in writing a mystery. What stands out in The Billionaire’s Funeral is its laudable pacing, with the story’s exposition laying down the foundation for its ultimate reveal of ‘whodunnit.’

Although the identity of the hacker can be predicted quite early on because of this framing, the intricate exploration into Chad’s morally questionable decisions of the past shroud their motives in mystery until the very end. Interwoven into the mandatory existential crisis of the brooding anti-hero are interesting metaphors of death and rebirth, right from the novel’s title to its protagonist’s struggle to understand who he has become in his callous climb to success, and the life-changing repercussions his actions have had on the lives of the innocents around him. However, while this depth is welcome, the redemption of the corrupt businessman is such a worn cliché that it fails to make any impact on the readers.

Chad aside, the rest of the characters are a string of stereotypes, from the genius hacker with an apparent attention deficit disorder to the multiple womanizing corporate honchos, indistinguishable from one another but for their designations. The women of the novel are either wronged damsels in distress, ultimately rewarded for their suffering with either large sums of money or the promise of a relationship with aforementioned corporate honchos, or else they are unfeeling, mentally unstable creatures who abandon their men or are killed off unceremoniously. Zacca, the hacker hired by Chad to trace the nefarious master-hacker, is the only one of his type in the novel, and so entertains the most.

The realism of the financial plot of the novel is admirable, from the systematic dismantling of Chad’s company and life from the inside out (literally) to the unflinching description of the shady deals cut outside the boardroom meetings; however, it is difficult to feel any real compassion for anyone, least of all Chad, let alone curiosity as to who is ruining his life and why.

The Billionaire’s Funeral, while an excellent effort at novel-building and showing remarkable attention to the realities of the financial world, ultimately fails to leave an impression.

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