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The Millionaires    by Brad Meltzer order for
by Brad Meltzer
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2002 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Oliver and Charlie Caruso, brothers different in personality, are employed by the very exclusive private bank of Greene & Greene. They yield to a moment of temptation and engage in a victimless and seemingly untraceable crime, sleight of hand (or rather of net) with wired financial transactions. It involves three million dollars in an abandoned account, which is about to be turned over to the state. Unfortunately it turns out that someone else had their hand in the till before the Carusos, a larger (and more visible) transfer is involved, and the brothers witness murder.

On the run from Secret Service agents who appear to have their own ruthless agenda, Oliver and Charlie attempt to track down Marty Duckworth, deceased owner of the account. The trail soon leads to Florida, Marty's barefoot daughter Gillian, and the world of Disney. Hot on the heels of the Carusos are Secret Agents Gallo and DeSanctis, with all the agency's high tech gadgetry and information resources at their disposal. And hot on their heels is the most interesting and capable character in the tale, top insurance investigator Joey Lemont. She thinks on her feet and has a talented assistant for cell-phoned research requests.

I was not sure at first how to take Oliver and Charlie. They can't be good guys as they commit a crime, but they're not wholehearted bad guys either. This ambiguity of reader reaction gets resolved fairly quickly by their friendly sibling banter, which is occasionally juvenile and as often non-verbal as it is spoken out loud. You have to feel sorry for the mess they've landed themselves in, and for the difficulties which with they've contended all their lives - an absent father and an unmanageable medical debt load. They are also loving sons to their mother Maggie, whose technique in evading the agents' surveillance had me enthusiastically cheering her on.

The action races at netspeed, there's plenty of shooting, unusual locations, and there's also a burgeoning romance between Oliver and Gillian, whose 'vibes' make Charlie distrustful. These, along with the Disney experience, the Internet and Intranet, the Secret Service, and the very big money, should make for a fast transition of this title to the movies. And I hope along with Joey that when they cast her part she is 'an asskicker, and has a normal body'. True to form, she has the last word in the novel, and it's a very satisfying one.

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