Who among us in the financial advisory business has not had an experience that causes us to think: “That would be a good storyline for a book.” The personal and sometimes intimate nature of the work advisors do with clients exposes us to all kinds of drama- both real and perceived.
Helping your clients deal with their money and the emotions around it means occasionally finding yourself wrestling with dysfunctional family dynamics, avarice, competing interests and perhaps even deceit or fraud. But murder? Not so likely.
That’s what makes Safe Harbor, the new mystery novel by Rosemary McCracken, such a captivating read. Part of the book’s appeal lies in the fact that the main character, a financial advisor, experiences the thin line between good and evil and sees how easy it would be to wind up on the wrong side of that line. The good news is that our heroine not only stays true to the ethics of her profession, she raises them to a higher level by going beyond what many of us would do for the sake of what is right.
How’s this for a scenario? Pat Tierney is a successful financial advisor working for a respected dealer firm. One day, a woman whom Tierney has never met walks into Tierney’s office with a seven-year old boy. This mystery woman essentially says that she had been referred by a client.
Normally, this would be a good situation. However, instead of asking for financial advice, the stranger asks Tierney to take care of young Tommy because his life is in danger. As anyone would do, Tierney rejects the request until the mystery woman discloses that the boy’s father is Tierney’s late husband, who had died four years previously. With little more than that as an explanation, the mystery woman walks out, leaving Tommy with Tierney.
Talk about a tangle! You have just found out that your husband had an affair before he died and the resultant offspring is sitting across from you – a boy who is in grave danger, according to the stranger who dropped him into your life a moment ago. Should you hate him or protect him? How do you handle the revelation of your husband’s cheating? Why is this happening to you? How will you cope?
Then, before you even have time to think it through, you learn that the boy’s mother has been murdered and the police think Tommy might be the killer’s next target.
Most of us, at that point, would throw our hands up in despair and turn everything over to the police and other authorities to handle. But that is not the stuff of which good mystery novels are made.
So, somewhat predictably, our intrepid advisor is drawn into the search for Tommy’s mother’s murderer. Soon, it becomes apparent that Tierney’s concern for Tommy’s safety is beginning to morph from that of an unwilling stranger into that of a protective parent.
What is not predictable, however, is the path that journey takes and the many characters encountered along the way, some monstrously wicked and some unwitting accomplices. We learn of the anxiety-filled world of illegal immigrants who are deceived by those they trust, the atrocity of trafficking in human body parts and the money laundering associated with those crimes. We are introduced to family members who are more concerned about their personal convenience than caring for their progeny. We are treated to numerous and intertwined subplots: sibling rivalry, teenage rebellion, emotions surrounding a new relationship.
I admit that in reviewing a mystery novel, it’s a bit of a challenge in not disclosing too much so as not to give away the ending. What I can say is that our advisor-heroine applies the skills and attitudes that would make her successful in her business to the situation in which she finds herself: compassion, integrity, attention to detail, investigative questioning, reasoning and, occasionally, risk-taking.
I also found familiarity in the fact that the events take place within the context of an advisory practice. Not too surprising, given that McCracken is a respected financial journalist and a regular contributor to Investment Executive. I believe she does our industry and profession credit with the way in which she brings the values of a responsible advisor into the picture.
And, finally, I liked the fact that the setting for the story is Toronto, with its recognizable landmarks and well-known references. For me, it was like watching a movie filmed in my hometown – something that always makes the experience more interesting.
Safe Harbor is a comfortable read and, my guess is, a relatively quick one; if you do put this book down for a while, you will quickly return to it. It would be a great way to while away a couple of lazy summer afternoons at the cottage or the beach.
by Rosemary McCracken,
© 2012 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.