Martin Baker - Book review: Meltdown

Bruce Turnbull 10/01/2008

Rating: 2/5

When the young, bright, brilliant academic Samuel Spendlove is offered a placement in the heart of international finance, the splendour of the world outside academia is revealed to him through veils of disastrous consequence. Sent on an undercover journalistic assignment by publishing's most notorious media tycoon, Samuel soon finds himself unearthing scandalous truths about his new mentor, the enigmatic trader Khan. His tenure as a sharp, fearless broker on the trading floor of a relentless bank in Paris leads Samuel into a well-constructed trap set by unknown assailants, who are desperate to see his mission fail. When a sexy colleague goes missing after an intimate meeting and an international crisis threatens to shatter the global economy, Samuel is hunted down by the very people he was sworn to befriend. Or is he?

In his first jaunt as a fiction writer, award-winning journalist Martin Baker has created a conceivable financial thriller that is obviously indebted to his experience and knowledge of the market in which his world thrives. Lacking in terms of pace, “Meltdown” can at times seem a tad tedious due to the large references to the inner-workings of the trading floor and their obsequious personnel. The actual subject matter isn't explained extensively to the reader, indicating that any layman interested in fawning over this tome would be completely bewildered as to what the characters are referencing or the systems they are using. Baker's prose on the other hand, is remarkably cogent, propelling the narrative onwards with his convincing grasp of technicalities and often racy sentiments. The lacklustre climax is trite, unenthusiastic and self-defeating, as it seems Baker dug himself under a prison cell and didn't have access to the key. Hopefully his next excursion from business writing will prove more fruitful; otherwise this had better be subjected to what the title visibly suggests.