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Right on the Money    by Emma Lathen order for
Right on the Money
by Emma Lathen
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 1995
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Emma Lathen is the pen name of two women familiar with the intricacies of Wall Street (one is an economist; the other, a lawyer). Their mysteries star John Putnam Thatcher, senior vice-president of the Sloan Guaranty Trust. As any mystery reader knows, money is a potent motive for murder, and Thatcher's position puts him into contact with an amazing variety of ways to make money. However, do not be scared off by the references to Wall Street. The authors deliver entertaining tales with very human characters, lightened by wit and humour.

In Right on the Money, Thatcher and his junior Ken Nicholls are drawn into the financial affairs of Conrad Ecker, a Sloan client. Ecker's family-owned business is dazzlingly successful at turning out small appliances for which the American consumer apparently lusts. ASI, a large, impersonal water-fixture manufacturer, has proposed a merger with Ecker. This brings out all the sharks, trolling for economic and corporate advantages. With so much money at stake, it is not surprising that the clumsy machinations of an ambitious and less-than-scrupulous young ASI employee attract the wrong kind of attention. His corpse disrupts a trade fair, as he was done to death by a barbecue skewer last seen in the hands of one of Ecker's executives.

Lathen creates well-rounded characters whose humanity shines the brighter for being set against a corporate background. Thatcher himself is warm and compassionate, with a vast tolerance for human foibles. However, he is also competent and clear-headed, and does not suffer fools gladly, especially at work. The reader meets many of Thatcher's hard-working colleagues at the Sloan, varied individuals who contribute their mite to his investigations. Thatcher and his crew take their jobs seriously: if a Sloan client is in hot water and Sloan interests are involved, Thatcher will move to protect these interests.

Right on the Money has all the usual Lathen elements: a variety of interesting characters (the authors have a knack for bringing even minor characters to vivid life), an ingenious scheme for making money, and the fascinating background of the Sloan and its employees. The latter provide a comfortable familiarity in each novel and are a welcome presence, just as the sight of a new Lathen novel is a welcome find.

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