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Having worked as a bond trader for little less than a year, Paul Murray is enjoying the excitement of dealing with millions pounds within the high risk trading environment. Taken under the wing of his boss, Hamilton MacKenzie, his future looks bright, especially as one of his colleagues; Debbie Chater has become smitten with him. But when her body turns up dead in the Thames, Paul becomes suspicious that maybe her death may not be accidental.
As he attempts to uncover the truth behind her untimely death, he discovers that not only that their may be something going on within his company but that corruption also spreads across to the other side of the Atlantic. Not sure of who he can trust, Paul endeavours with his search for the truth, but when he is forced to resign for supposedly insider trading and becomes the chief suspect in Debbie's murder case, his whole life is turned upside down and he hasn't got long to sort it out.
This was the first time I had read a Michael Ridpath book and it made a pleasant change to read a modern thriller which was mainly set in the UK, unlike my usual type of book. Although the book is very well written and kept me engrossed for its entire duration. I would have to say it is a bit predictable, as I was able to guess who the good guys and bad guys were far before the end, although the climax is a little unexpected.
The story itself is very good and although not overly complex does hold your attention. This is mainly down to Ridpath's expressive writing style, which although descriptive does not bore you with over long prose about how the surroundings looked but focuses on the key elements and keeping the story moving. This was also my first book which was based in the world of international trading and although at times it does get tied up in the mechanics of how it works, it doesn't leave you flummoxed to what is going on.
What I found particularly good was the number of characters which were drawn in, all of which were relevant to the story and gave it plenty of depth. Again, instead of going into tedious amounts of description on each characters, we are given just enough information to paint a picture of what they looked like and acted like, allowing us to use more of our own imagination to bring the book to life.
As I have already mentioned, the majority of the storyline is based in the UK, in particular London, with a brief excursion over to America. Being located over here also helped to bring the book to life as, having never been to America, I was able to relate to the sights and sounds described in the book much more and even new of several of the locations mentioned.
Whether or not the events, such as the insider trading, are plausible in the way they transpire is beyond my knowledge. But the way in which all the elements of the story work together is very tight and you are left to take very little for granted. This tightness is good but it also works against itself as you can quickly predict who the major bad guy is, long before the climax, which although was not entirely expected, felt like it had been rushed.
Although "Free To Trade" may not be the most complex of novels, Ridpath's style of writing is very easy to read, yet still very engrossing. The characters and locations are described in such a way that you can use your own knowledge and imagination to paint a mental picture. Plus with the majority of the story based in the UK, it really does help to relate to what is going on. In some ways Ridpath's style is not unlike John Grisham and Lee Child but where they can often drift on with tedious amounts of description on things which are insignificant, Ridpath focuses on the key elements and keeps the book moving at a very good pace. Definitely one I would recommend to anyone who wants a reasonable quick read which wont leave you scratching your head in confusion.
Paperback: 425 pages
Available on Amazon for £1.59 or for under £1 on EBay.
© Christianfilm October 2006