Money Can’t Lie

Money Can’t Lie, ISBN: 9780998185347, Schlegel Press, Book One, The Sleeper Series, A spy thriller in e-book by Anna Schlegel, translated from Russian by Alla Koshechkina.

Plot: Vlad Holt, once a Russian ‘sleeper spy’ and American citizen working in San Francisco as Harvey Smith was a dummy agent in a huge money scheme that largely consisted of shadowy inter-bank transfers of debts, both real and imaginary, allowing the silent partners to make large amounts of cash. The action involved several countries and numerous transactions. Time had arrived where a person had to be named responsible and the United States, Great Britain and the German Intelligence/Counter Intelligence agencies all were involved along with a couple of small banks in Poland and the Czech Republic which were implicated in money laundering because a man also involved and wanted for questioning, had accounts in these banks. The story then unfolds as the action proceeds to attempt to find a legal witness to the processes’ actual legal transaction that had taken place at the time. Vlad Holt/Smith becomes aware that he has been targeted when he learns of the death of another sleeper spy and realizes that the ear marks of the advancing endeavors points rather specifically to the British Intelligence Agency because they refused to compromise their integrity and have never varied from their tried and true methods. The complicated tale of international intrigue involving legitimate and illegitimate banks, money and individuals with mostly ‘shady’ pasts and/or presents is set forth by Anna, a Moscow securities trader until ‘the bottom dropped out’ and now intimately involved with the protagonists.

Discussion: This reviewer previously had read the first volume of the Dead Bank Series that was set in Moscow. It was, as the author explains, a book in which “…there are no cops, no killings. There is much about the illegal takeover of banks, and a powerful amount of money….(as seen) … thru the eyes of a swindler – (and) …there are no good guys.” My conclusion with respect to the volume of this series was: “An absorbing and totally different type of thriller `peopled’ with engrossing characters that provide flashes of intimate thought patterns of individuals we seldom encounter. It should be especially enjoyed by persons knowledgeable of business practices but regrettably difficult to follow for those of lesser understanding. However, for ALL readers it imparts a provocative insight to the thoughts of many native Russians similar perhaps to those generated by the motion picture Doctor Zhivago; i.e., it brings an intangible sense or `feeling’ of the country and its people that is even emphasized by the occasional slightly missed translation. In fact, this factor alone may be enough to induce the undecided to read the story even though comprehension of the fraudulent practices may be limited.”

This new series regrettably loses much of that quality in that it takes place in Germany and provides even more of a complicated, interwoven plot. However it does retain, and project much of a seeming sense of fear of surveillance with possible ensuing disastrous results that seemed to be widespread among much of the Russian population in the pre-Glasnost era and particularly anyone associated with the government or financial activity. (A personal observation/opinion.) Even several years later after the changed policies this same ‘sense’ still appeared to exist, although to a lesser degree. Amusingly, the characters here in the new series also seemingly continue to enjoy endlessly their vodka and cigarettes. The translation is not as well done as in the first book.

Conclusions for this book of the new series: another totally different thriller; a most complicated plot, difficult for those unfamiliar with finance; `peopled’ with engrossing characters; action – largely flashes of intimate analytic thought patterns by individuals seldom, if ever, encountered by the usual reader; the story’s appeal will be for those who like ‘something different’ with a complicated plot and characters introspectively reviewing past activity that could provide dangerous results that now are closing in.

3* Unique, complicated plot and characters in a story not for everyone.

JUNCTION

JUNCTION ISBN: 9781512004458, Create Space Independent Publishing, an e-book by Cody Schlegel.
Plot/Characters: The tale opens with twenty-nine year old Nick Harman vomiting in a “piss-stinking lavatory after binge drinking” while his unaffected 23-year-old cousin Ryan remains at the 5 Span Bar, ancient and still favorite gathering place for Junction’s 3500 population. The story then continues in and around this small Iowa community while we follow Nick and his group of acquaintances as they meander through their gritty life endlessly drinking, using and delivering drugs. The acquaintances include his older seemingly successful brother Bruce, former school mates Zack, for whom he took a minor drug rap, cousins Cory and Dusty Sheeks; Joey, the most active drug dealer who is found dead early in the story; Adam, son of the only Black family in town who survives Iraqi combat, returns and moves to West Virginia where he becomes a top Narcotics agent following in the steps of his 56-year-old father Will who was Deputy Sheriff in Junction County; Sheriff Rick Helmsley who we also discover to be the real power behind the drug trade; Jimmy Baker, another deputy; Patricia, Nick and Bruce’s mother for whom both lovingly assume full responsibility; Toni, Nick’s ex-girlfriend who still lives with him because she presumably has had his daughter Hayden, whom he adores; a Priest who has a gambling problem and other assorted individuals. The course of the story winds through the interplay of these numerous characters as various destructive situations, mostly self-wrought, arise. Regrettably, a finale per se, is not provided. There is no closure, but rather an opening to further the story line.
Discussion: The volume opens with two interesting statements: “If you’re looking for a fairy tale, you won’t find it here”, and an Irish proverb; “When the chess game is over, the pawn and king are placed in the same box.” These simple quotes pretty much address the story ‘telling it like it is’ – an unvarnished tale of the seamier side of life experienced in a largely by-passed small rural American town with a hint that it may speak of possible implications that similar situations could exist on other levels. Interesting discussions are included with respect to life/death and race relations.
Conclusion: A story of mostly psychologically damaged people living lives with no apparent thought and or hope for future happiness. Rather depressing and offering no closure, but apropos the author’s opening statements, sufficiently well and interestingly written to hold the reader’s interest.

4* Somewhat sad but interestingly written story.