The Great Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium stands four stories high, contains 200,00 gallons of saltwater, and houses over 150 varietal sea creatures. Three Sand Tiger sharks, each possessing three thousand spiny teeth, prowl their habitat for prey. Enter Charlie Kelemen, a short, portly, gregarious titan of Wall Street. Charlie throws a surprise birthday gala for his wife Samantha (aka Sam) at the Boston attraction.
He vanishes during the festivities, only to reappear below the surface of the aquarium. Charlie’s arms are pre-filleted with fresh blood to attract the sharks. He’s anchored with a stainless steel utility cart; slowly dragging him to demise. Shocked partygoers watch as the sharks feast. Who killed Charlie? And why? Debut author, Norb Vonnegut unites money and murder in Top Producer, (Minotaur, 2009).
Thirty-two-year-old Grover O’Rourke is Harvard educated and emanates his Southern-rooted gentlemanly charm. He’s a top producer at Sachs Kidder and Carnegie (SKC), a boutique investment firm specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Eighteen months ago, a somnolent trucker on I-95 killed his beloved wife Evelyn and four-year-old daughter Finn. Regrets abound as he grieves their loss.
Charlie and Sam (who had been Evelyn’s Wellesley College roommate) extended their home to Grover during his mourning. He’s now committed to comforting Sam. He also wonders if Charlie, founder of the Kelemen Group, a money management firm, produced a bad business deal to cause his death. Grover is compelled to explore more. His initial findings expose a contrarian profile of Charlie’s public persona.
SKC associates and the Boston Police leading Charlie’s murder investigation, advise Grover to avoid his own probe. He references Andy Warhol’s popular “Fifteen minutes of fame,” statement. Instead, he believes everyone will experience his or her own fifteen minutes of humiliation; given today’s Google-driven world. He lives his when he discovers Charlie forged his name to an endorsement letter, encouraging friends to invest in the Kelemen Group.
SKC declares conflict of interest and places Grover on administrative leave until the case is resolved. He’s furious that Charlie defamed his unblemished career record. He’s angry too, that clients like Betty Masters, a single mother raising her Down’s syndrome son, are now broke. Grover’s resolve to find Charlie’s killer and motive intensifies. Charlie’s laptop reveals sexual and stockbroker secrets paramount to solving his intricate murder puzzle. His 1040 tax returns declaring $53,000 in annual income also discredits his opulent lifestyle.
Vonnegut, a private wealth management professional, describes Wall Street’s quotidian antics from experience. Top producer, Patty Gershon, 43, dons short black hair, Ferrari-red lipstick and designer pantsuits. She rules “Estrogen Alley,” the nickname for the firm’s homestead of female brokers. Grover refers to her as “Lady Goldfish.” The species eat their young and Gershon is predatory in the office.
She’s determined to collaborate with Grover on his biggest client, Josef “Jumping JJ” Jaworski, CEO of Jack Oil. Grover is on guard. Terms like “micro caps,” and “zero-cost dollars,” authenticate Top Producer’s narrative without alienating non-industry readers. You’re also enveloped in New York City’s affluent aura. Welcome to the world of $175 haircuts on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and $800 horse-drawn carriage rides.
Clever tactics help solve Charlie Kelemen’s murder. Ultimately, Grover O’Rourke transcends death and dollars, realizing an opportunity to love again. Vonnegut’s inaugural book is captivating fiscal fiction, and an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at Wall Street. He generates high returns on your reading investment. Visit the author online at http://norbvonnegut.com.