KGB Banker, The Year’s Best Conspiracy Thriller

The Bottom Line: The year’s best conspiracy thriller (Winner, The Book Awards). A bewitching cocktail of financial fraud, international corruption and globetrotting action that – thanks to ample doses of Eastern bloc geopolitics – is also timely. This must-read thriller is guaranteed to raise your blood pressure in all the best ways.  

Chicago-based financial executive Robert Vanags might be too principled for his own good. At least that’s the sentiment from the top brass at his LaSalle Street firm who are not happy about him flagging the financial fraud of one of their top clients.

When an insistent recruiter comes calling with an international job offer at Turaida, Latvia’s largest bank, with the promise that the bank operates above board and is looking for an inscrutable American to be the face of the company, Vanags is intrigued. Disillusioned and still raw from his wife’s death, he decides that a move with his 17-year-old son, David, in the country of his ancestors, might be exactly the fresh start they both need.

But the allure of connecting to his heritage and stamping out Eastern European financial corruption soon takes a deadly turn when Vanags begins to uncover Turaida’s conspiracies and the depths they will descend to keep their secrets hidden.

McCormick and Christmas have crafted a compelling thriller that starts in rapid-fire pace and sets the tone for the action and intrigue that snakes mysteriously throughout the entire novel like the labyrinthine medieval streets of Riga, Latvia’s capital city.

The book’s geopolitical intrigue is also uncannily timed and serves as a reminder —albeit fictitious — of how deep old Soviet-era ties run and still inform regional politics. Turaida Bank’s deep holdings in Estonia, Latvia, Moldova and Lithuania — now free states of the former Soviet Union — are anything but squeaky clean. And as the danger ramps up for Vanags and he is framed for murder by Turaida operatives, it serves as a stark reminder of the fate that his grandparents met at the hands of the Soviets. A history that, sadly, finds itself playing out once again on the world stage.

While the story and action are compelling, the partnership between Vanag and his son adds a refreshing depth to the story as the two work with Vanag’s colleague and a journalist to clear his name, reveal the plot to the world and avoid igniting war in Europe.

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