SOCIAL SCIENCES

Octopus: Sam Israel, The Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con

. 2012. 368p. 978-0-30771-607-1. 26.
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Lawson (coauthor, with William Oldham, The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia) here tells the story of Sam Israel, a smart, charming hedge fund manager who, when his company began to lose money, fabricated a few numbers with his accountant to buy time. Next, Israel bumped into Robert Booth Nichols, a James Bond-esque former CIA agent who alleged he could get Israel into a shadow market controlling all of the world’s wealth, setting in motion a Möbius strip of con-artistry. With Lawson keeping everything in context, Israel’s unforgettable tale turns the world of stockbrokers and hedge fund managers into something straight out of a John le Carré novel. ­
VERDICT This is a fantastic read. Lawson observes that much of his information is from a noted con man and he had no way of verifying it. Often it feels as if Lawson himself was in thrall to Israel’s charms, but the story is so riveting that readers are unlikely to care whether everything is completely accurate. Recommended for those who devour stories of deception.

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