Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Frey demonstrates growth as a writer, January 1, 2005
This review is from: The Day Trader: A Novel of Risk and Reward (Hardcover)
I guess I never thought I'd say this, but I actually found something to admire in Stephen Frey's "The Day Trader." I can understand why so many readers in this forum are puzzled, because the book really is a departure from Frey's previous work. What I'm saying is that this is a good thing.

Let me put this in the form of a story: This last summer, when I was packing up the house and waiting for movers to arrive, I found a couple of his early novels in paperback form. These were books I'd picked up and read years ago, "The Takeover" and "The Vulture Fund." I had only the vaguest of memories, and since they were the only things to read in the house, I sat down and read them again. To tell the truth, they were pretty awful -- characters of cardboard, every one of them described in superlatives and adverbs; plot twists that weren't just implausible but rather incomprehensible. But okay, I kept turning the pages. Bad writing can be inspiring. You tell yourself you can do better, and you take comfort in knowing this guy got published.

So when I saw "The Day Trader" on a remainder table a few weeks ago, I figured I was in for another treat. But you know what? In the five years or so that had elapsed between those early novels and this one, Steven Frey seems to have done some maturing. He's getting better at it, okay? For one thing, the main character is more believable than any in those early novels. This one actually has flaws. (He's a brilliant stock-picker, but he can't see that everyone around him is a schemer and scammer, including his wife and best friend.) And Stephen Frey's use of the first person in this novel shows that he is willing to stretch himself stylistically, and he's trying to grow. The plot itself is human-scaled, and doesn't involve terrorists taking over nuclear reactors or wicked people trying to manipulate the entire American economic system. Nope, it's about a regular guy trying to take on the world.

Now, I'm not saying this book is terrific, not by a longshot. There are still some points that stretch my credulity -- like the rather mild sense of betrayal that the hero feels when he discovers everyone has been lying to him for so long. Or the fact that he doesn't really seem to start worrying about the murder investigation until late in the novel. I mean, anyone who understands the conventions of these types of stories knows that the hero is going to be the prime suspect, and I guess I like my heroes not to be completely blockheaded. The guy might have been more interesting if he'd squirmed a little.

I'm going to say something here that might seem a little embarrassing, but I actually like some of John Grisham's work. This book really doesn't approach the level of Grisham's best work. But let me say this -- Frey is about halfway there, and if he continues to show the same development as a writer in his future books, he may become someone worth reading. I mean, as more than a guilty pleasure.

Sometimes I wonder if authors read the reviews that readers post on Amazon.com. Well, if so, all I can say is keep it up, Stephen -- the growth you showed with this novel is an inspiration.
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