I really liked this book. I spent a portion of my professional career in the investment business, and what's in this book is unfortunately plausible. Mr Narea has done a terrific job creating a nice story around a pretty serious conspiracy yarn.
The basic premise of the book, is that militant radical Islamists, create a scenario that causes global financial meltdown, the US Dollar to be devalued substantially and removed as the worlds reserve currency, and shifts the balance of global economic power to China, the Middle East and Europe. Mr Narea's basic assertion is that these radical terrorists aren't neanderthals focused on grenade belts and suicide attacks. What's scariest, is that we know from what we learned about the complex network of terrorists who've pulled off ambitious attacks over the years, that Mr Narea's premise is within the realm of the thinkable. Whether it is completely doable is a different issue.
The Fund tells the story of a cult of highly educated radical Islamists, that interestingly includes an American convert to militant Islam, who create a global plot to topple America's preeminence as the worlds economic stronghold and reserve currency. Its done through hedging, derivatives, the movement of massive amounts of capital, serious violence, and outright fraud committed right under the noses of regulators and intelligence agencies. What's even more sinister, is that lots of enemies of the US, including Venezuela, Cuba, form an "enemy of my enemy" collaboration to fund and carry out the mission.
The story is pretty well told, but it does have some ups and downs. The writing is quite good, especially for a first time author. For me at least, it did run aground here and there, but 90% of the book was a very good read. The last third was especially action packed and dense in terms of relevant detail. One of the things that lost me was a typical cliche gratuitous sex scene, that the book simply didn't need, as it lessened the seriousness of the plot and scenario construction. While the love affair was a key component to the overall story, the sordid details were more a distraction than a plot thickener. Other small tidbits like this took a star away from my rating.
All in all, Mr Narea did a fine job assembling a wonderful story, with decent likable characters that you could actually respect. The military and intelligence communities were treated with dignity, rather than the vapid disrespect so many authors feel is necessary. The main protagonist, Kate Molares, is a woman of inner strength and fortitude, early in her career, and still slightly awkward in her direction in life. Her character was handled very well throughout the book, as were many of the others. I would definitely recommend this book to those who like a good thriller, especially a financial thriller. This is one of the most technical books of this nature I have read, and I really enjoyed it. Bravo Mr Narea on a wonderful debut effort!
Narea in his first novel inventively blends terrorism with financial warfare - plus some not inconceivable bioterrorism - to show what might happen if someone mixed 9/11 with September 2008.
It's not a pretty picture. As the author is a former investment banker and principal with JPMorgan Chase, you figure he knows what he's talking about. What you get is a plot that mixes Tom Clancy with "The Big Short".
Muslim financier Nebibi Hasehm, controller of a multibillion fund making a well-publicized opening to Wall Street, secretly funds Islamist terrorism. He's coordinating an attack with a major business assault on one of America's wealthiest financiers. Hasehm also seeks a return to "Andalus", the medieval Muslim caliphate that once ruled Spain. As events evolve, the plot leads to much more far-reaching consequences.
Defense Intelligence analyst Kate Molares uses her Wall Street background to follow money trails. She finds one she suspects is linked to a Madrid airport bombing. As she follows it, she stumbles across ties to Hugo Chavez's Venezuela and then Castro's Cuba - where some very shadowy medical research is going on.
Meanwhile Wall Street mogul Sam Coldsmith prepares to cash out his billions in a deal with Hasehm, while England and Spain prepare for a summit leading to joint sovereignty over long-disputed Gibraltar - gateway to Europe and a relic of the British empire with Britain's shaky hold symbolic of the West's weakening grip on world affairs.
Hasehm and his associates don't know anyone is on to them. And Molares doesn't realize, as she follows the trail, that it leads to Hasehm - with whom she has a past.
Narea does a fine job particularly near the end, when he sets his characters aside to examine the global consequences of such a plot. His ending has a "to-be-continued" feel to it. Could there be another book in the offing? I'll read it.
on May 31, 2011
There seem to be two schools of popular thrillers ... dense, thoughtful, global mosaics (like the novels of LeCarre or Littell); and stolid A-to-B stories (like Vince Flynn writes). "The Fund" is definitely in the latter category. Every move is described in detail, every character is bedecked with appropriately branded clothing and thematically suitable families and backgrounds, and every conversation proceeds as if read from a PowerPoint slide.
Despite this methodical construction, the writing also suffers from a variety of small linguistic glitches that I would overlook in a self-published eBook but which seem inexcusably jarring in something available in hardcover. What on earth is a "small grin", when a grin usually denotes a large smile? How do just two people manage to sit "around a table"? There are similar issues with pronouns and tenses that pop up from time to time.
These problems with the writing are all the more disappointing because the plot itself is interestingly conceived, exploring a comparatively new and topical arena for the old cat-and-mouse game of espionage. The overall result is not amusing enough to read by a pool, but it might be suitable for an airline flight.
on May 22, 2011
I really like THE FUND for almost the entire book. It kept me guessing, had some exiciting action, lots of realistic plotting, a very likable heroine and a villain that somehow generated some sympathy in spite of his ruthlessness.
The ending, however, while scary and realistic, seemed to veer away from the main characters. While the characters didn't disappear and there was a conclusion for them, it just seemed to me that the story ceased to be about them and instead became more of an analysis of the downfall of Western Civilization and the U.S.. All of which left me feeling pretty despondent and hopeless. Not exactly what I read a novel for. I felt rather depressed after finishing the book. :>(
While the ending, and the whole story for that matter, was entirely plausible and realistic, I'd kind of like to think that a better fate might await us than the U.S. being relegated to a third world country! While I didn't really expect a "happy" ending where the good guys foil the bad guys and save the day at the last second so life-as-we-know-it can continue without interruption, I was kind of hoping for something that at least left some kind of hope for the survival of Capitalism.
I thought THE FUND was shockingly realistic, the plot was believable, the end result was believable and the characters seemed to step right out of real life. Very well written. Moderate amounts of violence, but nothing to shockingly gruesome. A couple of pages of gratuitous sex--but nothing really explicit.
I thought the first 9/10 of the book were deserving of four, maybe even five stars. But, the depressing ending kind of left me cold. Frankly, we might very well wind up as economically ruined as the book describes given the wacky stuff happening in the real world, but I kind of like novels as a means to ESCAPE FROM REALITY. So, in conclusion, I decided to give a THREE STAR rating to THE FUND by H.T. NAREA. It is well written and a page-turner AND I really liked the story. I just wished the end held out some kind of hope!
on May 12, 2011
International banker, HT Narea, has written a thrilling spy novel set in modern times with a modern plot that raises important concerns about U.S. and European financial systems. H.T. Narea says these financial systems have several fundamental problems and vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. His novel tells the apocalyptic story of what could happen if these risks are not mitigated.
As chance would have it, I was reading The Fund the day Osama Bin Laden was killed. Osama Bin Laden is the real-world equivalent of one of the characters in the novel. The Wall Street Journal reporting over the next several days after the death of Osama Bin Laden mentioned many of the items HT Narea describes in The Fund. In addition, one need only recall events such as the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that triggered the collapse of the collateralized debt obligation house of cards, or the flash crash of May 6, 2010, to witness the fragility of the world's financial systems. Unfortunately, while the novel is fiction, the events and risks the book warns us about are quite real.
Not only does The Fund provide important education and history to warn readers about possible economic warfare, it is an engaging spy novel similar to those written by Robert Ludlum or John Grisham. Once I picked up the book, I could not force myself to put it down and I read it straight to the end. With its many twists, turns, action scenes, and suspense, the book is sure to become a movie success similar to The Firm by John Grisham.
To hear HT Narea talk about The Fund and what people can do to safeguard themselves from the vulnerable financial systems that are the foundation of the world economy, listen to his radio interview at [...]
Admittedly it took me three tries to get into this book, but the third time was the charm. Which left me with the question as to why I had such a hard time getting into it, compared to some other books.
There was certainly no defect in the characters, I found most of them compelling and all too realistic.
The plot, likewise, was well conceived. Perhaps the execution was a bit off, a bit bogged down in detail. Some of that detail could have been trimmed, but that is almost to be expected for a first novel. In his first novel, you have an author trying to make sure they establish a credible plot, and at the same time they have a certain attachment to their words and ideas that they labored to put to paper; which to cut is almost a Sophie's choice.
Overall, it didn't quite hit the mark, when I account for the fact that I put this book down twice for over a month before getting back into it. But I am intrigued enough that I will pick up the author's next book, I expect more good things in the future.
Fadiyah, a Berber Muslim from North Africa, runs after her older brother, Sajid, and he realizes there is no more time. He then proceeds to blow himself up in the middle of Madrid-Barajas Airport. So begins a cycle of planning and implementation of terrorist activities that is all too familiar but is shown in its precise financial planning within this novel that defies the reader's stereotypical predictions!
The central characters are Katerina Molares, part of the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. and Nebibi Hashem a Milanese-born Egyptian Muslim. Nebibi's priority is sharia-based finances that will further the jihad terrorist activities to spread the sword and word of Allah. He is brilliant and ruthless as we see in th opening chapters where a colleague who has stolen a fortune has both his arms severed by a sword. Sharia law believers are serious and intolerant of the slightest deviation. Now he begins to oversee the movement of funds to legitimate but hidden spots that appear as innocent businesses in the Cayman Islands, Venezuela, and Gibraltar, as well as other smaller locations. Those taking part have huge political and financial aspirations but fail to appreciate or know about the larger mission being forged, called Operation Andalus. Courage-enhancing serum drugs, a disease-producing viral shot, and more add to the tension of this mad scheme to destruction!
Kate is about to be unwittingly compromised which may indirectly aid the enemy. She has been assigned to find out the source of some of these moving funds from a Zurich bank to a Cuban account to a Swiss account. The DIA suspects it is related to Al Qaeda's terrorist activities but so far the trail is cold. The Madrid bombing gives all the senses that the time to find the source is rapidly losing ground. The reader will be gripped by pages and pages of international intelligence, counterintelligence, and journeys spanning the globe to race toward a satisfactory solution to the financial dilemma leading to critical chaos.
From here you must read, so that this review won't be a spoiler. But beware if you think there's a "good guys get bad guys" final scenario. The actual ending chapters of this novel will horrify one and yet draw one to keep reading because of its all too real plausible and devastating events. The Fund is a large novel about the peaceful and violent world of fighting the war on terrorism that one wants to put down but cannot because of its gripping, dominoes-like progression. Gripping, intelligent, fear-filled, courageous, devious and honorable characters push this story to its startling end! Nicely done, H. T. Narea!
on June 3, 2011
If you are familiar with financial fiction author Paul Erdman, you will be interested to hear (if you don't know already) that the author of this book is his son-in-law. There's even an Erdman reference in the latter part of the story. It's been a while since I last read Erdman, so I'm reluctant to offer up any kind of direct comparisson writing-wise. The story, though, is of the same financial genre. Basically, it combines terrorism, intelligence, and global finance with a bit of sex and relationship complexity. In this case, there's a lot which derives directly from current and recent developments in global economics and geo-poiltics. It's a story that takes a kind of what-if scenario for the future. Putting things in such present/near-future terms, though, the author risks the story having a very short shelf life.
If you're looking for a story with a nice, happy ending this book ain't it (though I suppose that could depend on one's point of view). In and of itself, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It leaves you with something to think about. My issue with how the book ended wasn't so much with what happened as much as with how abruptly some of the plot lines were tied off and certain questions were left dangling.
All in all not a bad read - not a great one, but not bad.
on July 23, 2011
This book by Narea is well worth the read. It is a very worthy book. As a first book it is excellent and I hope that there are more to come. At first I was a little worried about reading the book because it has to do with finances and big financial matters and I was a little fearful that it might be one of those novels that was over my head in financial problems. It was not. The characters were well sketched in and the plot was clear. End ending was not quite as skillfully done as it could have been and will be done in future novels. I really enjoyed it. Good work.
J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"
on October 10, 2012
Having read this book just after finishing The Fear Index, I have to disagree with many critics and rate The Fund to be the superior book. I found that the author of The Fear Index telegraphed each plot development far in advance, with the ending being totally unsurprising and unremarkable. The Fund, on the other hand, was a far more robust bit of writing, with far better character and plot development. The author definitely has a point of view, but doesn't let it get in the way of telling a good story. He clearly took some care in writing this book, making it a rich and informative read, filled with descriptions of peoples and places.
Spoiler alert -- I can only give the book three stars, however, because:
1. After dragging the reader through three hundred pages focused on the creation of the Milestone Fund, the author does not address how the fund prospered via its partial purchase of a hedge fund that was exposed to markets that were crashing.
2. Separately, the dramatic ending of the story would never have happened as described... having been nuked, backup facility or not, the markets simply would not have opened for several days, and trading in the affected banks would have been halted for days until a government resolution could have been engineered.
3. The author never spends one word illustrating how, once events are set in motion, derivatives brought the system down. In fact, in the real world, the offsetting nature of derivative positions often net out to near zero. The Lehman and AIG wind-downs showed that derivative positions can be unwound with little or no impact on counter-parties who were usually adequately hedged. Which I guess is why he never described the financial aftermath of the terrorist strike.
Value investors alert -- At its current sub-$2 price, this book is a bargain. Well worth reading.