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June 12, 2013 / John Sheridan

The Dark Pool by J.E. Fishman


Kindle, Amazon US, Kindle UK, Amazon UK

Crime fiction that interacts with the financial world is an area that frequently appeals to me probably harking back to watching Wall Street many years ago and more recently Peter Spiegelman’s John March series and Mike Cooper’s Silas Cade – all very different but very enjoyable and each to a greater or lesser degree dealing tangentially with either the rights and wrongs of Wall Street or the denizens thereof. JE Fishman’s latest then with its tale of dark pools populated by these self-proclaimed financial titans inhabits the right territory for me featuring short chapters of no more than a few pages that keep the energy and suspense levels high.

Opening with high school football star Antwon Meeps falling foul of the law which provides the opportunity for others to exploit his new found vulnerability for their personal gain – Antwon through his actions and inactions doesn’t manage to endear himself to the reader so when the focus of the book switches to his coach Shoog Clay it helps to establish both the hero of the piece but also someone who is worthy of sympathy for all that is about to befall him. To paraphrase the quote often attributed to Edmund Burke “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing” and it is this characteristic that distinguishes Shoog as the coach from Antwon as his star player for Shoog is willing to sacrifice everything including personal gain and advancement to do right by his players.

While the identity of “The Mean” is easily deciphered it is by no means key to the piece and is revealed by the author without any fanfare, there are others lurking that play a more significant role whose identities and motivations won’t be quite so easily uncovered. Without giving too much away the dark pool of the title concerns a pool where participants can buy and sell contracts tied to the Q score of an individual which determines how marketable they are. In Shoog’s case as a high school coach that has had another winning year his Q score is doing nicely but to make even more for his unknown backers it will take a step up in his recognition level that would come from joining the college game to really make a lot of money. With this much money riding on his future it doesn’t preclude certain pool participants from getting more actively involved in his life and with such active management of their risks, those on the other side of the bet through a murder or suicide or both might turn things against him if he can be implicated or failing that his own death which will make even more money for them by shutting down his Q score permanently – analogous to the corrupt practices that crashed banks and insurance companies, nothing should come between a trader and his money.

My rating is 9 out of 10. Definitely worth the 3 or 4 bucks you would pay to get it on your Kindle. Check out the author’s website for more.

Book description:
Three men’s lives on a knife’s edge…

Shoog Clay: The nation’s winningest inner-city high school football coach resists pressure to move up to the college level because his kids in the Bronx mean everything to him. But more powerful people won’t take no for an answer.

Antwon Meeps: One day Harriet Tubman High School’s star running back is a shoe-in for a college scholarship. The next day he’s accused of a rape he didn’t commit, his life begins unraveling, and he doesn’t know how to stop it.

The Mean: This incognito Greenwich hedge fund manager is so rich he keeps a giant sea creature as his pet. But a risky investment threatens to ruin him, and a stubborn high school football coach holds the key to his redemption.

Soon a tragic hanging in the school gymnasium will lay bare a secret force that none of these men understands. In a “dark pool” marketplace, insatiable Wall Street players have wagered everything on certain real-world outcomes. When fortunes hang in the balance, financiers cloaked in anonymity won’t hesitate to pay off their claims with the blood of others.

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