Reminiscences of an Accidental Embezzler

Howard E. Hallengren

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 318 Price: (paperback) $19.99 ISBN: 9781524541361 Reviewed: August, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

Howard E. Hallengren’s sprawling novel, Reminiscences of an Accidental Embezzler, recounts the malfeasance of a 1960’s-era trader at a Swiss bank.

The trader, Kurt Wenner, is called to Buenos Aires to support a senior trader in a big deal. The client turns out to be an elderly ex-Nazi, but Wenner is unfazed; he assists the man in setting aside a tidy sum for his estranged daughter. But when the man dies unexpectedly, Wenner and his social-climbing wife funnel the funds into a numbered bank account of their own.

Back at the office, the deal leads to a promotion, and the future seems rosy, until the thwarted, suspicious daughter comes after him. He flees the country but is still convicted and spends the rest of the book one step ahead of the law, cheerfully misappropriating funds from New York to LA. A fair amount of work is involved in stealing all this money, which begs the question of the title: How accidental can a crime be when it takes so much time and effort to achieve?

The setup seems to indicate that the author is aiming to write a thriller, but the narrative is hampered by its overwritten presentation, weighed down with exhaustive details (on one occasion, most of a page is dedicated to complicated travel arrangements) and missing the narrative drive that should make this type of book a page-turner. Wenner’s lack of self-awareness becomes tiring, and he misses the redeeming charm or creativity of a Tom Ripley or a James Bond; he just drifts from one unattended batch of money to the next, meeting a cast of characters whose dialogue, unfortunately, all sounds the same.

In all, the execution is too dry to satisfy most, although some readers interested in finance — including disillusioned ex-traders—might find this story of malfeasance in a familiar setting interesting enough to overlook its flaws.

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