The Banker's Wife/La femme du banquier, by Cristina Alger
I found this book in a small independent bookstore in Geneva and was immediately drawn to it. The cover is gorgeous! And it's set in Geneva, about an expat wife. Basically, it's a book about me. Except that it's about the deadly intrigue that happens behind closed doors in the secret banks that line the rives of Lac Leman, which has very little to do with me at all.
This book was exciting and fast-paced, the ultimate thriller. Annabel Werner is devastated when her husband, a banker at the upscale Swiss United Bank in Geneva, is killed in an airplane crash in the French Alps. But soon she finds herself embroiled in the middle of a dangerous investigation into the secret bank accounts that house billions of hidden money. On the other side of the Atlantic, journalist Marina works to avenge the murder of her mentor, racing to crack open the story of a lifetime - the secret hidden wealth of some of the most corrupt and influential people in the world.
My favourite parts were of course those taking place in Geneva, because I have a personal bias. I love this beautiful city, but I often wonder about what does go on behind the serene facades of the private banks sprinkled through the downtown of the city. Because the wealth here in the city? It's obscene. It's like nothing I could have ever imagined. And while this city seems so peaceful, you know that there's so much more going on underneath the placid exterior. Sometimes I'll be walking along in the sunshine, enjoying the views, and I get a little chill thinking about it.
One of the major themes is the importance of work to one's identity, particularly women. In Marina's case, she is expected to give up her job, which she is passionate about, in order to fall in line with her husband's political family's goals. And Annabel is lost with too much money and nothing to do. She misses her New York job as art curator and how the job shaped her view of herself. Without her work, she doesn't know who she is.
I related most to Annabel's character, for some rather obvious personal reasons, but she impressed me with how she managed to hold it together against some very scary people, managing to spend some convalescence time at her husband's boss's home, knowing very well that he probably had him killed and would do the same to her as soon as he knew how much she knew. Marina was equally impressive, evading tails and facing down the bad guys, even as her life is shattered apart as the consequence of her truth-seeking.
All in all, I really loved this book for the exciting pace as well as the cool strong female characters. In fact, it is the strong female narration that really allows this book to work. I heartily recommend The Banker's Wife and will also be seeking out other books written by Cristina Alger.