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"House of Cards: Dead Men Tell No Tales," a murder mystery, is based on real events. It is the story of how the major banks and hedge funds in this country created, marketed, and sold junk mortgage-back securities to unsuspecting customers while, at the same time, offloading their risks through the purchase of ‘insurance’ from a major Wall Street insurance firm. When the head of the sixth largest investment banking and securities firm in the United States is assassinated on Times Square in the middle of New York City’s annual Festival of the Dead, Homicide Detective Louis Martelli is one of the first on the scene. Working quickly, NYPD Information Specialist missy Dugan rapidly identifies the assassin, but the case rapidly spirals downward into a maelstrom of death and intrigue linked both to the financial meltdown of 2008 and international terrorism. Who was behind the murders, and why did the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) attempt to shut down Martelli’s investigation before it even got started? Martelli eventually learns the answers to these and other questions as he tracks down the killer, but not before uncovering some of Wall Street’s darkest secrets, including a plot by two institutions to fund Islamic terrorism.
Spiced with the flavor of New York City like a Sabrett hot dog bought from a push cart outside Macy’s on 34th Street, NYPD Detective Louis Martelli peels the onion investigating the murder of a wealthy socialite Matthew B. Richardson III. Shot at point blank range in Times Square by an assassin in a clown suit, all of the signs of a professional hit were blatantly obvious once the assassin himself was found in a dumpster with a single gunshot to his head. So beginsHouse of Cards: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the latest action-packed suspense novel of the exploits of the big city detective Louis Martelli, by Theodore Jerome Cohen.
An inherent characteristic of Theodore Jerome Cohen’s books are they educate while entertaining, and House of Cards is no exception. The reader is expertly brought into the workings of the mortgage loan bust, where irresponsible home loans were bought and packaged into large investment paper portfolios, misrepresented as to their risk and sold to investors and capital managers worldwide. Once the investors caught wind of this through illegal insider information, the lucky ones purchased insurance from companies such as AIG to mitigate the risk, and as the pop of the financial bubble caused losses to the taxpayers needing to bail out the insurance companies, the crooked investment bankers paid themselves record bonuses. With more wealth generated by fraudulent white collar criminals since the beginning of our country, it was easy for the street gangsters to seek their share. Like moths to a flame, the situation burned up all that got too close.
Louis Martelli is use to working between the administrative lines while staying off the police department’s radar. Cohen brings his character to a new level of shady integrity, having him become a self-appointed judge and jury of right and wrong, good and bad. The circuitous course of events leads to a childhood friend, and their destinies collide in a dramatic climax of fate. Like poker, it’s all in the luck of the draw, unless you have the deck stacked and know how to cheat!
I found Theodore Jerome Cohen’s references and remarks to show a mature analogist style found in classic novels by authors such as Dan Brown, or Tom Clancy, or even the late Michael Crichton. Heavily laden in terse, poignant dialog, as well as street-smart observations, the reader gets easily drawn into the book; both effortlessly and willingly. Before you know it, the book has more pages on the left side then the right, and you just can’t put it down until you see what’s going to happen next.
Having grown up in New York, I found the references to Brooklyn to be personally nostalgic, but like a good pastrami sandwich, you don’t have to be a New Yorker to enjoy one. This book would be as good on the commuter trains out of Penn Station as it would on the beaches of Cozumel or poolside in Hollywood. The appeal of House of Cards is universal to all readers, and as with any great hero, Louis Martelli lives on to fight another battle. Should you think I’m giving away the ending, all I can say is the most famous of NY expressions, “What’s it to ya?”