The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger is an international thriller that will keep you guessing until the end. It’s a must-read!
I read this story in one sitting, I just had to know how it would end. It’s a fast-paced read that features the mysterious world of private banking for the ultra-rich. At the heart of the story are women who become their own heroes. There’s plenty of twists and turns in this one and I promise the following review is spoiler-free.
The Banker’s Wife primarily stars two women: Annabel and Marina. Annabel’s husband Matthew is reportedly killed in a plane crash. He was a banking insider at Swiss United, a powerful offshore bank. As she begins a desperate search for answers, she determines that Matthew’s death was no accident, and that she is now in the crosshairs of his powerful enemies. Marina is a journalist engaged to Grant, son to a billionaire developer. While looking into Swiss United, Marina uncovers information that implicates some of the most powerful men in the financial world, including a few who are too close to home. For more about the synopsis, click here.
Annabel and Marina are both strong, intelligent, complicated and determined. Perhaps their biggest flaws are falling in love with men who work with criminals (or might be criminals themselves). While this is a multi-perspective narrative, we mostly read it from their views. So, as more of the truth becomes unraveled, we learn it when they do.
While Annabel and Marina are very different and only met once in passing, there are similarities when it comes to the men they love. Annabel gave up her career to move with her husband to Geneva accepting that she’ll become another “banker’s wife” even if she never quite fit in with the crowd. Whereas Marina says she’ll quit her journalism job, especially as her future-in-law announces a run for presidency, but she finds it much more difficult to quit than she expected, especially when more is revealed about her future in-laws.
They both don’t deny that there are aspects of extreme wealth that are very appealing but when they start to learn the truth behind their easy lives, they start to question everything.
While there are aspects of the book that are pure escapism—glimpse into the ultra-rich, a thrilling car chase, private islands—much of this felt true-to-life. For instance, the tax evasion, money laundering and the funding of terrorism. One of the banker’s clients is related to Bashar al-Assad, which is a truly chilling section.
In one scene, the real-life deep throat (Mark Felt) tells Marina:
[blockquote align=”none” author=””]“There’s a whole world offshore, Ms. Tourneau,” he tells her. “A world of dirty money, hidden away in shadow accounts, and it belongs to some very powerful and dangerous people. Imagine if you could see their bank balances. Their transactions. Their network. I’m talking about cartel kings. Terrorists. World leaders. Even people you know, people you went to school with, people who live across the street.”[/blockquote]
Some of the stand-out scenes are all the journalists working to expose these criminals. The story was inspired by the real-life Panama Papers as they were leaked while Alger was working on this novel. Alger provides a behind-the-scenes view on the real risks that journalists take to report on huge stories like that. I loved the dynamic between Marina and another journalist Owen as they worked on the stories. Alger also provides plenty of context to the reader about offshore banking, sanctions, etc.