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Human Capital    by Stephen Amidon order for
Human Capital
by Stephen Amidon
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Drew Hagel is feeling the pressure in the upper class suburbia he calls home - Totten Crossing, Connecticut. Drew is sole owner of Hagel & Son, a once-profitable real estate brokerage run by his father. Unfortunately, business is not booming, due to Drew's neglect during his divorce, combined with an increase in local competition. When Drew meets Quint, manager of a risky but profitable hedge fund, he jumps at the opportunity to invest $250,000. The investment is borrowed against the equity in Drew's family home, unbeknownst to his second wife Ronnie. She is a psychologist, pregnant with twins and dreaming of remodeling the attic as a playroom.

Drew met Quint because his teenage daughter from his first marriage (Shannon) dated Quint's son Jamie, who has his father's good looks and intelligence but lacks his drive and motivation - and drowns the pressure Quint puts on him by drinking heavily. Unfortunately, the hedge fund takes a deep, unexpected nosedive. Not only will Drew not receive anticipated dividends this year, but his investment may not be recovered at all. An apologetic Quint advises Drew to sit tight, hoping that things will turn around within a year or so. However, Drew does not have that sort of time as he is already behind in bills and cannot make his house payments any longer. Drew is crippled by the constant pressure to make things right for his family, and realizes that trying to keep up with Quint's high-flying set of investors is out of his league.

This taut novel is sharpened by the fact that Drew's daughter, Shannon, is dating Ian, one of her stepmother Ronnie's patients. Ian is a teenaged boy undergoing drug counseling, and living with his Uncle David, who in turn pressures Ian to invest his inheritance from his mother in a bar. David wants to buy it for uncle and nephew to run together. Further adding to the suspense is Carrie, Quint's wife and childhood sweetheart. She's a beautiful yet lonely (despite her marriage to a wealthy and powerful man) woman, and mother to their three sons. When Carrie must give up her dream of restoring The Garden, a historic movie theater, she is tempted to embark on an affair with another man.

Human Capital is an excellent, riveting read about the deceit, pressure and duplicity lurking in suburban Totten Crossing. The characters are thrown together one fateful evening after a horrific accident involving Jamie, Shannon and Ian. I especially enjoyed the satirical aspects of this book and the fact that the author deftly crafted a page-turner of considerable depth with interesting characters.

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