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The Last Trade: The Truth is in the Numbers    by James Conway order for
Last Trade
by James Conway
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I often find financial thrillers rather dull as they fill pages with the detailed groundwork for misadventures involving big numbers. But that is definitely not the case with James Conway's The Last Trade, where the action accelerates early and fast.

And its hero is not a slick financial trader - Drew Havens is a 'twenty-eight-year-old stat-arb quant'. This socially inept nerd designed an elegant computer model that foretold the sub-prime mortgage debacle, launched the Rising Fund, and made his boss 'Rick Salvado an overnight multi-billionaire media darling'. But it all came at a high cost for Havens, whose small daughter died and whose wife has left him.

Years later, Haven is burnt out and sick of the excess around him, though numbers remain 'his affliction and his salvation.' He plans to quit soon, and is avoiding the calls of 'young quant pup' Danny Weiss, despite having asked Weiss to 'take a thorough look into the fund's holdings', which currently make no sense to him. Can you guess where this is going? Course you can. Weiss is murdered and Haven goes on the run, the major suspect in the killing.

But there's much more to this story than that, and it twists and turns frequently en route to an explosive end game. Securities traders are being murdered all over the world, after executing a specific set of anonymous trades. One of them, a young South African woman, escapes and goes into hiding. Investigating is Cara Sobieski, part of a Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Task Force. But Cara is a flawed gambling addict with her own secrets and a past that haunts her.

Cara and Drew eventually manage to join forces, following a trail of subtle clues left by Weiss. Drew's ex-wife Miranda also assists where she can, exposing her to the same killers who are after Drew. All of them face betrayal and death. The Last Trade is a gripping thriller that I anticipate will quickly make its way to the big screen. And I look forward to more from James Conway.

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