In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1), by Tana French

Nine stars

After much waiting and some significant ‘biblio’ peer pressure, I have finally decided to take the plunge into the world of Tana French and the Dublin Murder Squad. In the summer of 1984, three children went missing in the woods on the outskirts of Dublin. When authorities arrived, they found one boy, Adam ‘Rob’ Ryan, delirious and unsure what had happened to him. The other two were presumed dead, their bodies never found. Flashing forward two decades, Ryan has recreated himself, using his middle name, and finds himself working as a Homicide detective in Dublin. Partnered with his best friend, Cassie Maddox, they are used to the most gruesome of scenes. When Ryan and Maddox are called to an archeological dig site, they discover the body of twelve year-old Katy Devlin, buried under a ceremonial headstone. This sparks many disturbing memories for Ryan, as it is the exact location of his childhood trauma. While beginning to amass clues in the Devilin murder, Ryan is forced to revisit his past, told in a number of developing flashbacks. He tries to make sense what happened to his two best friends as he remembers the news they shared leading up to that summer afternoon. The deeper Ryan and Maddox dig into the possible motives for the crime, the more suspects they unearth who might harbour the necessary grudge to kill young Katy. Could the murder investigation hold the key to solving the crime from that long ago summer night? Ryan struggles to come to terms with this while also balancing the burden of having no means of helping the two people he loved the most. Simultaneously, his personal interactions with Maddox open paths of confusion and animosity that may be irreparable. French makes her debut in stunning fashion, sure to impress all those who enjoy a police procedural of the highest order.

While I have heard much of Tana French in the last few months, I had been inundated with new series in my 2016 reading journey that I was not sure I ought to add another collection to my list. However, the series held a few unique aspects, one of which was its setting in Ireland, a place I hold close to my heart. After allowing myself to try at least one novel, I discovered that French tells a story that proves as gripping as some of the great European series I have discovered in the past couple of years. The Rob Ryan character is both gripping and baffling, which caught my attention from the start. His work on the Homicide Squad and the struggles tied to his youth proved to be a thread throughout the story and remained relevant until the final pages. While French takes her time in the story’s progression, the drawn out development is done in such an effective way that the reader forgets the pace at which the story matures. The plot is both straightforward and convoluted, as the reader encounters twists and dead ends as they relate to motives for the crime. Strains between the characters help bridge portions of the investigation narrative, but might surge into being central plot lines for subsequent novels. French takes on a great deal in her debut piece but comes out of the experience firmly rooting herself in the genre by providing a unique flavour. I am eager to lose myself in her subsequent novels, which I hope are just as riveting.

Kudos, Madam French for blowing my mind and creating an instant fan out of me. I cannot wait to rush into the second novel, hoping that Ryan and the rest of the gang prove equally as compelling.

Deep Cover Jack (Hunt for Reacher #7), by Diane Capri

Seven stars

In her latest Hunt for Reacher novel, Diane Capri adds a new layer to the ongoing chase scenario that keeps the protagonists one small step behind their intended target. FBI Special Agents Gaspar and Otto continue their search for Jack Reacher, sent to Houston to follow-up on another lead. It appears that former DEA and ATF Agent Susan Duffy has been seen with Reacher over the past three weeks and might be able to shed some light on his whereabouts, or reveal his location, inadvertently. While in Houston, Gaspar and Otto learn that Duffy is on indeterminate leave and no one is willing to share anything concrete with them. Duffy’s apartment appears to have been emptied and her most recent partner is also highly defensive when it comes to sharing anything. Upon learning that she might have returned to Abbott Cove, a small community in Maine, Gaspar and Otto rush across the country in order to follow a trace that might lead to Reacher or provide some concrete leads. Within the confines of a large compound in the Abbott Cove area, a man by the name of the Diplomat is entertaining a number of rich men whose criminal capabilities are piqued by a new weapon on the market; one that can obliterate from such a distance that it is virtually undetectable. While following up leads in Abbot Cove, Gaspar and Otto learn that Duffy might be in the area, though she has gone missing after trying to locate another of her colleagues. All signs point to the aforementioned compound, where rumour has it women were being kept for an international human trafficking ring. The collective who seek to find and free Duffy must work together to remove her from harm’s way, which might permit essential clues about the whereabouts of the ever-elusive Jack Reacher. All this while the Diplomat seeks to sell his most lucrative weapon to date to the highest bidder and keep his trafficking ring intact. Succinct but full of drama, Capri knows how to lure the reader in and keep them interested until the next cliffhanger. 

This series has always been an interesting one for me, as I am an avid Jack Reacher fan. While Capri’s series is concentrated in a very small window of time and each books feeds immediately after the end of its predecessor, the stories remain fresh and highly entertaining. With plots that focus on finding Reacher, things generally spiral from the intended mission and a new mystery emerges. Using a few central characters and an ever-changing collection of those in a supporting role (a la each Reacher tale), Capri is able to keep the reader interested and curious about what is yet to come. Gaspar and Otto have grown in the short chronological period of the novels, with Capri adding new layers to keep the reader connected to them during each mission. I remain interested in the evolution of the series, though the nomadic Reacher character proves to be my greatest interest. 

Kudos, Madam Capri for a sensible addition to the series. Even if Reacher remains one step ahead, you are able to develop your characters effectively. 

Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl

Nine stars 

Dahl continues with his wonderful children’s stories, telling one that has a realistic flavour to it, sure to appeal to the masses. After the death of his mother as an infant, Danny is left to live with his father. Together, they forge a bond so close that no one can come between them. Living in a small caravan out back of the service station he owns, William raises Danny the best he can. One night, Danny wakes to find his father is not in the upper bunk bed and panics, but soon locates him strolling up the pathway. After intense questioning, Danny learns that his father has been out poaching pheasants, something that many of the poorer men have been known to do on the large estate of a pompous owner. Danny is enamoured at the possibility that they can do this together, but is cautioned against it, as it is a highly dangerous and illegal affair. When Danny cannot find his father a second time, he goes out looking, only to discover that things are tied up in proverbial knots. Sharing an idea for the pheasant catching, Danny finds a way to get in on the act. What follows is a treacherous scheme that could fail at any moment, or reap rewards for many. Perhaps my favourite story to date in this re-reading adventure, Dahl dazzles and impresses at the same time.

I vaguely remember my father reading me this story when I was young, which helped fuel my desire to try it again for myself. The ease with which the story flows is surely one of its greatest assets, alongside some great characters and a plot that is as believable as it is relatable to at least some children. Able to convey a wonderful story in short order, Dahl continues to show how he earned the title of masterful children’s author of the 20th century. With a peppering mention of some other stories in his quiver (BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Dahl bridges a connection for his young readers, with just a touch of self-promotion. Short chapters foster a great adult-child joint experience and one can only hope that readers for decades to come will continue to be dazzled by the work Dahl made popular in my own youth. Rest assured, I will soon bring these stories out for my own son.

Kudos, Mr. Dahl for continuing to impress with your fluid prose. I love that warm feeling your books always impart. 

Chitty Chitty Bank Bang Over the Moon (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang #4), by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Eight stars

  The excitement continues in this final instalment of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang series, as Frank Cottrell Boyce pushes the reader to their limits. Stuck in 1966 without a vehicle, the Tootings have little hope of retrieving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from Tiny Jack and Nanny. Mr. Tooting surmises that their only hope will be to locate Commander Pott and the rest of the family, who could destroy the original vehicle, thereby keeping it from ever having fallen into the hands of nefarious villains. They locate the Commander as he rushes away in the original car, but before they have time to contemplate their options, the Tootings discover that the clock tower of the Houses of Westminster (yes, the one holding Big Ben) has been turned into a makeshift aircraft, circling the earth. Subsequent events help the reader to realise that the Commander and Mrs. Pott are aboard the tower, along with Baby Harry. Teaming up with Jeremy and Jemima Pott, the Tootings soon discover that Commander Pott is trying to reach out to them to explain the dastardly plan Tiny Jack has put into motion. With a revamped 1960s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Tootings and Pott children work together and head out for the North Pole, only to be caught in yet another web laid for them by Nanny. It is at this point that Tiny Jack reveals all; that he has hopes of taking Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the moon to add to his cause célèbre. Through a series of dastardly games and revelations the Tootings and Potts must work together to turn the tides, or Tiny Jack and Nanny will add another layer to their growing legacy of infamy, leaving the world unable to stop them and Chitty firmly in their grasp. The fastest and most complex of all the stories, Cottrell Boyce leaves little time for the reader to catch their breath before delivering the final punch!

From the ‘chronojuster’ to Count Zborowski and even into the world of lost-cities, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang series has taken the reader through time, space, and into the far-reaching crevices of the heart. When I started the series as a buddy read, I was not sure I would be pulled in, but had agreed to something a little light-hearted. Now that we have reached the end, it is as if I am slightly deflated that this zooming vehicle of multiple permutations has finally left for good. As with the previous sequels, Cottrell Boyce pulls together many of the exciting characters and storylines to keep the reader hooked on what is going on. This story is surely the most complex and action-filled, as it deals with time and space travels, as well as trying to tie off all the loose ends laid out in past books. There is a sense of finality that will allow the reader some semblance of peace, though the door remains open just a little to the possible return of Chitty and some of the characters. From the Pott Family through to the Tootings, both Ian Fleming and Frank Cottrell Boyce have laid the groundwork for a wonderful children’s series that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed all four books and would recommend it to anyone, either as a solo, group, or buddy read.
Kudos, Mr. Cottrell Boyce for taking up the series and allowing a new generation of readers to explore the magic of all things Chitty!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Race Against Time (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang #3), by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Eight stars

As I continue to explore the adventures of this most exciting vehicle, I have come to see why young readers the world over would be drawn to this series. Frank Cottrell Boyce offers up a cute and informative piece that will surely last the test of time. Picking up where the previous story ended, the Tootings find themselves in an epoch of which they are not familiar, with a Tyrannosaurus Rex breathing down their necks. Apparently, the ‘chronojuster’ has the capacity to toss Chitty Chitty Bang Bang through time, an added layer of excitement for the Tootings. When Mr. Tooting is able to manoeuvre the family away from the meat-eaters and into a more current period, they find themselves in the heart of the early 1920s New York City, where Chitty’s famed creator, Count Zborowski, greets them warmly and challenges them to race in his newly perfected Chitty Chitty Bang Bang II. After some finagling and fine-tuning of the original Chitty, the Tootings take along a young racing enthusiast in hopes that the chronojuster will help propel them to more adventures. Their ultimate goal, to find the Pott family, original owners of Chitty, so that they might erase any remnant of Chitty’s creation. Why get rid of such a handy vehicle, you might ask? Super villains Tiny Jack and Nanny are still on the hunt for Chitty, hoping to add her to their collection to undertake dastardly plans. The Tootings bounce around time, in search of the Potts Family and trying to dodge all that time travel can toss their way. After a makeover in the Amazon, Chitty is ready to face anything that might be placed before her, taking the Tootings along for the ride of their lives. However, Nanny’s spun a web and cannot help but hope to snag Chitty before all is said and done. A wonderful continuation of this series that enthrals young and mature readers alike.

Starting this series as a buddy read, I was so pleased with it presentation that I chose to continue reading all the newer adventures left for young readers. Cottrell Boyce continues to dazzle readers with the adventures of a newer family while keeping the memories of Ian Fleming’s original theme in the forefront of the narrative. A time-travel theme allows for a new round of delightful characters, all of whom add to the fast-paced narrative. Cottrell Boyce presents an interest story, working on a new angle to keep readers curious and free from being able to predict what is to come. While geared to the young reader, the story plays out in such a way that it is not overly cheesy and a more mature (read: adult) reader can equally enjoy the journey through time. I am eager to see what comes next in the Chitty series and will keep these books in mind for when my son is a little older.

Kudos, Mr. Cottrell Boyce for keeping the series fun as well as informative for the reader. While you have taken oven from Ian Fleming, I am confident that his estate is well-pleased with what you’ve been able to do.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang #2), by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Eight stars

Having begun this series with the Ian Fleming classic, I thought it a good idea to continue on, under the guidance of Frank Cottrell Boyce. Moving the story into the present day, the young reader is introduced to the Tooting Family, with a mom and dad, as well as Lucy, Jeremy, and baby Harry. When Mr. Tooting announces that he has major news, he shares that he’s been sacked from his job, which means the family is without a vehicle. Noting the crossroad in their lives, Mr. and Mrs. Tooting agree to take the family on the adventure of a lifetime, but will need a vehicle to match. After they secure a camper van, the Tootings are almost ready to go, but Mr. Tooting takes Jeremy with him to the local scrap yard to find a few items that might be useful to ensure the camper van is ready for all its adventures. There, the duo discover an old Zborowski engine, a famous racing vehicle from the 1920s. Mr. Tooting has grand ideas and turns the camper van into a speeding monstrosity, while Jeremy is unsure what to expect. When the family is ready to head out, they begin the journey towards Paris, where Mrs. Tooting has always fancied going. Their trip takes a turn when the camper van sprouts wings and begins to sail through the air. Panicked and unsure what is going on, the Tootings hold on for dear life until they find themselves atop the Eiffel Tower. The authorities and local media outlets scramble for an explanation, which leads to a mysterious phone call and the subsequent renaming of the camper van to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a name the Tootings think quite odd, but who are they to protest. From there, Chitty takes the family over to the Sphinx and more adventures. However, super villain Tiny Jack has been watching the Tootings and their vehicle, with a plot of his own and a fiendish assistant named Nanny. What will come of the Tootings and is there more to these vacation destinations than meets the eye? Cottrell Boyce pulls his readers in and does Fleming great justice with this sequel, where the adventure never seems to let up.

It was a buddy read that had me begin this series, but I am pleased that I took the time to delve in, as the adventures are wonderful. Cottrell Boyce ties the previous novel to this one in a masterful manner, offering breadcrumbs to the attentive reader, while entertaining those who may be new to the series. A new collection of characters keeps the story going and offers a wonderful new realm of adventures. With just the right amount of evil villain to keep young readers curious and yet not petrified, Cottrell Boyce delivers a jam-packed adventure that one can only hope will continue with the next in the series. Paced perfect and with a peppering of corny storylines, this is the perfect tale for a young reader with a taste for the adventurous.

Kudos, Mr. Cottrell Boyce for working along the Fleming framework and keeping children enthused as they are educated about the ins and out of motors in all their forms.

The House Husband: A BookShot, by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski

Eight stars

With a new author pairing, Patterson brings Duane Swierczynski into the BookShot mix to show off his abilities, and what a debut venture this has become. There is a killer about, targeting families whose strains outweigh the connection they have together. What makes it all the more mysterious is that said killer by night is a house husband, most bland, during the day. When Teaghan Beaumont returns to the Homicide Squad after having her first child, everything seems out of whack; her partner is acting off and her fellow detectives handle her with kid gloves. However, when Beaumont and her partner respond to the scene of a potential familicide, she cannot help feel chilled to the bone. While trying to juggle her job and a six-week old baby, Beaumont’s mind is always racing, yet tired as ever. Doing a little work on her own, Beaumont soon realises that there have been other such crimes while she’s been away, all chalked up to strain within a family unit. But, when another such event occurs, Beaumont is sure there is a killer on the loose, setting the scene and trying to deter the authorities. What she discovers next will not only blow the case wide open, but no one will see it coming, even the reader. A wonderful story to appeal to those BookShot fans who seek a gem and have toughed it out with less than stellar pieces in the past.

As I have mentioned many times before, BookShots are truly a gamble to the avid reader. Short enough that anything disappointing has not wasted too long of the reader’s time, but fast-paced at times that the reader can devour a few in one afternoon. Patterson’s introduction of Swierczynski into the family proves to be a wonderful addition and has offered new hope for fans of this short story grouping. With little time to waste, Patterson and Swierczynski develop strong characters and a story that is second to none. Short chapters force the reader to grab on and get hooked or drop everything as the plot moves at an alarming pace. A few key twists within the story act as major pivot points and the reader is left to wonder what’s just happened, hopefully in a good way. I do hope to see Swierczynski again soon in either BookShot or full novel format, as he surely has a mind for this sort of piece.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Swierczynski on a wonderful piece. I can only hope there are more BookShots to come from this entertaining duo.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang #1), by Ian Fleming

Eight stars

While most famous for his work on creating Agent 007, Ian Fleming wrote this classic children’s story many years ago, which entertains as much as it captures the interest of many young readers. Commander Caractacus Pott has a long history of inventing things, which provides limited success and forces the family to gather round in times of financial strain. After selling one of his ideas to a local confectionary, the Potts head out to purchase their first family car. Commander Pott brings his wife (Mimsie) and twins (Jeremy and Jemima) along to find a vehicle that might suit them. One that has been left to the side catches their attention and soon the Potts have a vehicle of their own. This vehicle appears somewhat standard in appearance but seems to have a personality all its own, down to its name, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The Pott Family find themselves out exploring the rural English countryside one day when things take a slight detour and Chitty begins showing off her wonderful capabilities (as many will know, cars prefer to be ‘she’ and Fleming discusses this). Departing the confines of England, Chitty takes the Commander and his brood on a continental exploration, which goes from exciting to problematic in the blink of an eye. Jemima and Jeremy are soon placed in danger and no one can help them, though Chitty might have seen in all, if only she can get the Commander and Mimsie to heed her alerts. A wonderful story that will keep the young reader hooked until the very last pages.

I will admit that I had heard of this book (and movie) a long time ago, but it is only now, when asked to do a quick buddy read, that I decided to go all in. Fleming takes this outrageous idea and puts a nice spin on it, perfect for young readers. While there is much that can be said of Commander Pott, the story is rightly all about this unique vehicle, though the other characters found herein keep things light and adventurous. Fleming teases readers with what might be around the corner, beginning with talk of a magical sweet, but soon pushes the story well away from inventions and into the fast-paced world of travels and trouble. In a fashion that I have only seen in English children’s books, the narrator keeps the reader fully involved and helps push speculation to its limits, while also making sure that no one is left behind. The twists and turns of this tale are wonderfully paced and the reader is sure to want more. As do I, admittedly. So, I’ll rush out to read the next three in the series, though it is too bad that Fleming never got around to writing those, too busy keeping the rest of the world safe with James Bond.

Kudos, Mr. Fleming for your wonderful beginning to a series of children’s novels sure to bamboozle as much as they excite the young reader. I feel like a kid again as I devoured this wonderful story.

Bad Little Girl, by Frances Vick

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Frances Vick, and Bookouture for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In her follow-up novel, Frances Vick tackles some of the most troublesome areas of a well-organized society, the protection of the child. In her years as a teacher, Claire Penny has seen many children pass through the halls of her school. Some good experiences mix alongside those that are less than enlightening, but when it comes to young Lorna Bell, something deep inside begins to call out to Claire, even if it is hard to pinpoint the precise concern. After seeing young Lorna on the playground, isolated from the other children, Claire develops a particular curiosity that develops into a caring interest. Soon thereafter, Lorna finds herself in small bouts of trouble, be it teasing or stealing or roughhousing on the playground, which brings in a young mother, Nikki, to handle her daughter’s troubles. What follows are signs of continued alarm to Claire, but no one else will heed her requests to follow-up with the authorities. Claire learns of a home life that is less than ideal for Lorna and marks all over the little one’s body, but nothing can be done, at least by those with the power to remove Lorna from her family. By the time she turns ten, Lorna begins to forge a bond with Claire and a plot is hatched to solve everything. Just after Christmas, they flee the town for the Cornish seaside, where Claire hopes to keep Lorna from the family that does not care for her. Tragic news comes over the wire, but Claire still wants to keep Lorna protected and away from the bright lights, but is confused why no one has reported Lorna missing. While out in the seaside town, Claire and Lorna encounter Marianne, a writer-cum-dancer-cum-Jill of all trades. Lorna and Marianne soon begin spending time together while Claire is left ignored and constantly worried she will be discovered as having kidnapped Lorna. However, something begins to eat away at Claire, both related to the news back home and the connection that Marianne has made with Lorna. Before long, Claire is left to wonder if she, too, will be abandoned and Marianne will pick up as the saviour figure to Lorna. A gripping tale that takes some time to get going, but pulls the reader in soon thereafter.

Without a strong connection to Vick and her writing, it is somewhat difficult to judge the calibre of that which I have read. However, I find that first impressions usually go a long way for me and I can say that I came out of this reading experience with mixed feelings. I was interested in the premise of the novel from the outset and Vick is able to present it in such a way as to capture its essence, a struggle between one’s gut reaction and the rules of the system. The array of characters Vick uses conveys a decent cross-section of those who might be involved, from abusive parents to detached school officials and an overbearing (caring?) educator who wants it all to work out for the best. While the plot is strong in its intentions, I felt it took a long time to really get moving, longer than I would have liked even to lay the groundwork for the departure from the primary residence itself. However, once things got moving, there was a wonderful undertone to the story and hints throughout as to what might be going on. Vick portrays Claire, Lorna, and Marianne in a wonderful fashion and leaves the reader to wonder if the gut reaction they are getting as the story progresses could actually be true. Vick layers on more drama and a few twists to keep the reader from guessing too much before letting everything fall into place at the perfect moment. Working in the Child Protection field myself, I enjoyed the perspective offered and can empathise with Claire on many accounts. An interesting novel that I think could work well and drawn many people to it, given the proper approach.

Kudos, Madam Vick for a great story and interesting portrayal. While I cannot put my finger on precisely what kept me from loving this book outrightly, I know there is much potential and I will keep my eyes peeled for your next work.

The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance, by Ron Chernow

Nine stars

In his first massive biographical tome, Ron Chernow definitely takes up an undertaking that proves daunting and yet highly interesting. Chernow sought to explore not only financial ties in America through the ages, but to explore a powerful financial, business, and political force that has lasted for more than a few decades. The Morgan name has been deeply ensconced in the American fabric (the international one as well) for well over a century, helping to steer world events and political ideals one way or another. In his exploration of the House of Morgan–more than a familial biography in the true sense–Chernow examines the entity during three distinct epochs: the Baronial Age, the Diplomatic Era, and the Casino Period. Readers can marvel not only at the power held by these multi-millionaires, but how the House survived many a plight (both political and economic) and remains as strong as ever. While I am not one who is well-versed in finances or who can attest to being the greatest handler of money, I feel any reader with patience and a passion to learn will devour this and see just how powerful and corrupt money can be, no matter the holder.

Chernow first examines the House of Morgan by exploring the lives and ventures of Junius and Pierpont Morgan in what he coins as the Baronial Age. This father and son duo sought to forge greatness in an era when the American aristocracy was finding its feet. As Chernow lays the groundwork for his entire piece, the House set up its own foundations, whereby the elite nature became the basis for future Morgan enterprising. The Morgans sought not to be a bank in the traditional sense, with tellers and small accounts, but to offer services to the uppermost crust of society, requiring inflated minimal deposits and refusing to publicise their services. Chernow touches on this in the preface, but does explore how Junius wanted to use the mid-nineteenth century to develop a core group by which he could make sizeable investments and see his own profits soar. By the time Pierpont took over daily running of the House, banking became but one of the ventures undertaken to produce great wealth. Railroads were coming into vogue and their development as more than regional entities could be seen by amalgamating companies into monopolising monstrosities. The House of Morgan had capital for those who wished to expand holdings, but also elbowed their way onto the board of many companies. The rise in rail importance created a strong upswing in the Morgan profits and thereby helped earn Pierpont Morgan the title of Robber Barron in the late nineteenth century. At the dawn of the early twentieth century, the House of Morgan found itself firmly rooted in America’s upper class and became the go-to lenders of the top tier. When Wall Street felt tremors of a crash in the first decade of that century, it was the House that held firm and weathered the storm. Pierpont did all he could to keep things running effectively, leaving a powerful and influential House of Morgan for his son, Jack, after his death in 1913. Creating a financial aristocracy in America and laying the groundwork for international importance, the baronial age ushered in some of the most trying and successful years of the House of Morgan. 

In the lead-up to major political changes on the world scene, the House of Morgan undertook using their strong voice in what Chernow titles the Diplomatic Era. Divesting its monetary policy outside of America, the Morgans had enterprises in London and Paris, two key areas in Europe with long reaches across the continent and around the world. The House used its significant influence to help foster stability within the European countries, providing key loans and, at times, propping up their national currencies to the point of steering away from significant devaluation. With strong diplomatic intentions, the House was not overly picky about their clients for a time and would help wherever they could. Even after the Great War commenced, the House of Morgan invested heavily in munitions and metals that became essential to the war effort. Chernow goes so far as to discuss how the Morgans were seemingly war profiteers by investing in both sides without outwardly supporting the Axis. This was precarious territory and could flirt with treasonous activity. But, the House of Morgan sought to invest in what would bring profit and did so effectively. In those inter-war years, the House began seeing itself managed more by US administrations, through legislation. President Wilson passed income tax laws and tried to limit control of the Morgans with the creation of a Federal Reserve. Wilson received much pushback and watched the House do all they could to react. With the arrival of the Depression, Jack Morgan, now at the helm, sought to push through as panic enveloped the world, steadying the financial markets and remaining above the fray. The European situation brought dual concern to the Morgans, who watched the reparations of the Great War cripple Germany and the rise of the Nazis, fuelled by that resentment. As Chernow explains, the House could strike to aid with reparation stability and prop-up the German economy, which might prevent the need for war. There was much to be done with these sorts of monetary policies, but the House was kept from offering complete assistance, with pressure from both FDR and Churchill on both sides of the Atlantic. Trying to keep from sullying their reputation and steering away from treasonous activities, the Morgans would not allow themselves to make concrete ties with the Nazis or the extermination policies enacted throughout the concentration camps. The House remained firmly rooted in the American camp, though financial potentials surely crossed political ideologies in the 1930s and 40s. The diplomatic era saw the House of Morgan hold onto much power around the world, though they were not able to prevent some of the major political skirmishes. The profits they reaped allowed them to divest from national government concerns and focus solely on the personal investor.

Chernow’s third era of the House of Morgan, which he calls the Casino Period, proved to be one in which gambles in finances were precipitated by a loss of control by the House at a time when multinational corporations were the new Goliaths. With the onset of the Cold War, the world proved divided along ideological lines, but this did not force the House of Morgan to shy away from their business ventures. Using corporations as clients, the House sought to bridge financial wealth with the acquisition of key businesses all over the world, though they were more a servant to aid in the diversification of business interests. The American presidents tried to turn away from some of the ventures being undertaken, but those heading up various investment branches of Morgan were able to turn politics on its head with bold and daring moves. Be it subsidizing means to acquire and monopolize Japanese high tech firms or foster third-party fiscal exchanges so as not to violate embargoes in the Middle East, the House of Morgan was there through it all. Chernow offers numerous concrete examples of how the House tried to keep itself one step ahead of the precarious markets while also pushing the limits with offering seed money for hostile takeovers. Whatever it was, it brought things into the late 20th century at a time when financial security was rare, even with relative peace on the political front. Hedging bets for their clients proved to be the effective means of creating a relatively effective House of Morgan in the latter part of the century and into the twenty-first, after Chernow’s narrative comes to a close. 

As the political and economic world remains balanced on the head of a needle, Chernow exemplifies how the diverse and risky approaches of the House of Morgan keep their financial prowess effective. I am no money man, nor do I feel I learned enough in these pages to expound much on the subject. However, Chernow’s strong ability to lay out a thought-provoking and timely narrative pushes the reader through the various situations with ease. Political, economic and personal grief pepper the story throughout and Chernow is able to draw them all together. His focus has to be varied as he handles a number of people and their personal stories, but he does so effectively and to the point that the reader is sure to want to know more. This is the sign of a good historian and biographer, something that I know Chernow has fostered after reading a number of his works. There is more to the House of Morgan than money, but it is their passion for it that shaped them as men and a family (both blood and business) for so long. While Chernow sought to find a family whose influence on worldwide banking lasted long enough to write about its development, he has done so in spades with this exploration of the Morgans.

Kudos, Mr. Chernow for shedding so much light on these men and their empire, which showed numerous changes over its development. Your books always leave me wanting more and curious as to what else you have in store. What a wonderful way to begin your life-long journey of writing.