One might anticipate from its title that The Dead Bank Diary will be another 'cops and robbers' brand of mystery/detective story; but although the bank has, indeed, been compromised, it's not from the usual robbery. It's more than a takeover of the bank: it's a heist where the winner takes all - the money and the bank itself, together with the staff.
Russian author Anna Schlegel is in the perfect position to craft such a tale: a PhD born in Moscow who fell into the job of a securities trader, then become involved with a Foreign Intelligence Officer who was an expert financier/fraudster himself, her unique background lends to a thriller which, although not based on reality, holds all the trappings of a real political and financial event.
The intersection of 'dead banks' in 1998 Moscow (which fell down like a house of cards), a million-dollar bond's uncertain future, and an unemployed bank trader asked to perform a job that will change and challenge her life makes for vivid reading. Add a series of criminally masterminded events during the Financial Crisis and you have a detailed story line that delves deeply into a world that many a fiction reader won't expect.
The novel's satisfying depth and intrigue do come at a small price. Occasionally-stilted dialogue and lack of the usual punctuation quotes around dialogue (English is not the author's native language and at points the wording or punctuation could have benefited from an editor's hand), and more financial details than one might appreciate means that readers without some basic knowledge of banking could become lost.
This is more than offset, ultimately, by a story that is charged with intrigue and action, realistic and vivid protagonists, and revelations about swindlers, con artists, and about raider takeover of a bank and its forced bankruptcy. It should also be noted that the action and intrigue doesn't involve the usual violence, so if it's heart-stopping deadly confrontations that are desired from a thriller, look elsewhere. The Dead Bank Diary relies upon far more complicated scenarios and threats to drive its action, and that makes it a standout in a genre too commonly littered with nonstop murders.
Those who anticipate a light action piece may be stymied by the story's well-developed technical details, but readers who look for thought-provoking complexity from their suspense thrillers will find The Dead Bank Diary holds the uncommon ability to show how easy it is to break the bank if you think like a banker.