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Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Feature Book Review: "Gods of Greenwich" : Norb Vonnegut (Finance Mystery!) グリニッジの金融神々 (ヘッジファンドのミステリー!) ノーブ ヴォネガット

Money & murder work well together in this hedge fund mix. I am always looking for a good fast-paced financial thriller and this was it. When possible,  I also prefer to read about finance, but rarely expect direct exposure to the hedge fund world or its High Net Worth lifestyle trappings. There is plenty of luxury eye candy woven into this story. I get the feeling that Norb is able to bring to finance, what John Grisham, has brought to the lawyers and the legal profession.

America's hedge fund center "Hedgistan" is the main location in Greenwich, Connecticut. It is just outside New York, and this book did not disappoint. It is fiction, but reads like a very realistic documentary. You very much get a sense that Wall Street can be seen in 2 complimentary locations, Manhattan and Greenwich. You can even see them as 2 sides of the same coin. One buy side and one sell side perhaps. Ever detail rings true, and nothing seems fake.

Cy Leeser, the hedge fund manager with the "secret sauce" has everything including Bianca Santiago, the beautiful Brazilian trophy wife. Picasso paintings, and a vast and sprawling Greenwich estate, is so large in size I would not want to clean it. The plot is based around hero Jimmy Cusack, the hero and underdog taking on the buy side's big time players. 

He is caught in a post-Lehman & pre-Iceland crisis, that many can relate to. Coming from the Boston area, not New York, he still made it into Goldman Sachs, the pinnacle of investment banking at that time, and then his own hedge fund, sweet. However, every good deed does not go unpunished, as we learn in this book, as is life in finance.

Jimmy is somebody who has one financial strike against him and brothers in the military who did not share his financial career path. There were so many bells and whistles that were spot on, I lost count. In fact, it was the details that the author Norb Vonnegut (yes related to Kurt), uses that click everything in place. 

The Top 3 Takeaways from this book that really impact any reader are:

1) There is a lot to learn about how to succeed within a hedge fund, but at the core, it is about making money. Those who figure out the "secret sauce" survive long term or die trying.

2) The more of this book you read, the more you wonder how much the world of finance can cover. Where does it end? and how much wider does it cover in ways you do not see today.


3) Becoming successful in a hedge fund is never easy, but can sometimes appear to be to outsiders. There is often a reason, and that reason is often a key rare talent that is hard to replicate.

Norb does have a Harvard MBA, and did work at top investment banks. This is key to what makes this story work, because it feels so real. These insights are used so well, in the right amount, that he kept me engaged for much longer than I should have ever been. Annuities are about peoples lives, but only for their lifetime. There is a blood thirsty innovation on this theme that I certainly have never seen. I could not put it down and that is always a good sign. If you like money, art and "killer sex", you will be changed with this read. Highly recommended!


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