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With The Set-up, Paul Erdman has written a financial thriller that is exciting, educational, and hard to put down. Erdman’s novel involves an extremely complicated plot that requires a fair bit of knowledge about the modern world banking economy to be understood. Fortunately, Erdman not only knows what he is writing about, he is able to make the reader understand, or at least think he or she understands the economic concept and investment instruments that drive the plot.The novel takes place at a time contemporary with its publication, 1997. Charles Black, the recently resigned Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of the United States is arrested by the Swiss police while trying to enter Switzerland to attending a meeting of the board members of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS). Black had been the Chairman for four years, presumably since the retirement of Alan Greenspan in approximately 1993. Two members of the Board, Dr. Samuel Schweizer of both the Swiss National Bank and the BIS, and Sir Robert Neville, the English member of the BIS of fraud and using insider information for his own personal gain. Penalties for the crimes Black is accused of run from five to forty years. From the title page Erdman lets the reader know that Black is innocent. Shortly thereafter it becomes clear that Black, known for being an honest man who has a habit of offending people by firing them when they are incompetent has been abandoned by everyone except for his extremely attractive wife, Sally Black. The bulk of the book is spent detailing the trouble Black is in based on the strict efforts of the Swiss to prosecute, if not persecute Black, the history that led up to the arrest, and resolving the threat to Charles Black.Typically the directors of the BIS meet periodically on a weekend in Basel, Switzerland. They meet informally on their own on Saturday where they are free to “unofficially” discuss that their respective countries intend to do to adjust interest rates and inflation in the near future. The following day they meet formally with a precise record of the business transacted that is publicly released. Those framing Black use this information gleaned on Saturday to successfully invest in derivatives while leaving a tortuous, but well-documented trail that eventually leads back to Charles Black (Erdman).Erdman does an excellent job of explaining financial terms. Derivatives, as used in The Set-Up are essentially monetary futures. A person investing in derivatives pays for the right to buy a currency, United States dollars or Euros, for example, at some future time for a particular price. If the value of the currency increases, due to a reduction in interest rates, the purchaser of the futures makes money by purchasing the currency at a discounted price. Similarly, if the interest rate goes up, the value of the money will fall in relation to other currencies so exercising the right to purchase would result in a loss. Consequently, if an individual with capital to invest and insider knowledge of how interest rates will go, has a decided advantage (Erdman 27).Another term, essential to understanding The Set-up is the Bank for International Settlements or BIS. The BIS was founded in 1931 “to facilitate intergovernmental financial transactions” (Erdman 25). It was designed to help Germany with the extreme reparation charges that were invoked at the end of World War I. Since that time its activities expanded to help member governments bridge financial crises during the 1930s and subsequently. Member countries include most of Western Europe, the United States and Japan.Erdman is well-qualified to write a financial thriller. He has written eight prior financial thrillers that have been best sellers. According to the flyleaf he is also a financial writer, an “international financier,” and a founder of a Swiss bank in California. According to the flyleaf on his first book The Billion Dollar Sure Thing he also spent ten months as a prisoner in a Swiss prison in Basel because of the failure of the bank he started. It is no surprise then that he has a strong anti-Swiss bias based on his own experience as well as strong feelings about the behavior of the Swiss during World War II especially in regard to the banking of gold stolen by the Nazis and deposited in Swiss banks during the war (Erdman).All in all Erdman has writer an excellent novel. It is engaging despite the reader knowing the innocence of protagonist. It is extremely readable despite the complexity of the financial terms. Erdman’s explanations of the intricacies of the world financial community are generally easy to understand. It is evident that Erdman has been known as writing detailed explanations that are at times pedantic. In The Set-Up Erdman appears to poke fun of himself when he has Sir Robert Neville, the English representative to the BIS rehearse not only the facts of the case, but provide a brief lecture on international banking that helps the reader but evidently irritates the Belgian representative when he has him whisper to his Dutch colleague, “[h]e thinks he’s still lecturing to undergraduates at Cambridge” (Erdman 27). This book is well worth reading and is to be recommended to thriller and mystery readers. 

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