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Duped by Derivatives: A Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Duped By Derivatives: A Manhattan Murder Mystery By Gall Farrelly 285 pages; paperback; $6.99 Chicago Spectrum Press, Chicago

Start with Reilly Investment Co., a New York firm that's in trouble because of derivatives trading gone bad. Add some pranksters with grudges who play dirty tricks, then mix in a few offbeat characters. Shake them up with the cold-blooded murder of the firm's owner and you have this colorful genre narrative.

Ex-Boston policeman-turned-private-eye Detective Roy Clarkson and his tough secretary Katie Maquire team with finance professor Lisa King, a one-year "visiting scholar" at Reilly, to solve the mystery. The late Mr. Reilly had offended on several fronts: His poor derivatives deals caused his clients major investment losses, and he treated employees and his only son badly. These actions form the basis of several possible motives for the murder.

New York City is the setting, and the author takes the reader to well-known sites such as the Wall Street financial district and Rockefeller Center while commenting on both the city's unique virtues and its foibles. Most of the action takes place in and around the Reilly office, where mysterious pranksters have smeared everything with catsup, put glue on chairs, brewed coffee that bubbles and ordered large amounts of unwanted food. But such annoying but harmless tricks pale in comparison with the discovery of the body of George Reilly.

King, Clarkson and Maquire spring into action. (It is not their first time working together; they teamed up in an earlier book, Beaned in Boston.) Each independently pursues a different trail to identify the culprits and pick up clues until the solution is at hand.

Along the way, many interesting characters with possible motives for the pranks or the killing come to life. These include a shoeshine lady who reads people by the condition of their footwear, a young woman who quits Reilly mysteriously, a long-time executive who's fired from the firm and finds his life turned upside down, an extremely disgruntled client, a very unhappy son who has been wronged by his father, and the late Mr. Reilly's personal secretary. Farrelly also introduces a charming but tough New York City detective as the secretary's boyfriend.

Farrelly, a CPA who has written widely on technical issues and co-authored a book on corporate reputations, brings her experience as a finance professor and visiting scholar at an investment firm to her second mystery novel. She admits she writes fiction as a release from the pressures of her day job. In Duped, Professor Farrelly leaves the technical issues in the classroom. This is simple, low-key writing, and the only finance lesson is when King and Clarkson discuss derivatives.

Farrelly has developed a successful formula--continuity of characters, an interesting supporting cast and a tongue-in-cheek approach. Despite some predictability and a plot shortcut or two in the form of coincidental occurrences, it is a pleasant, fast-moving read.

STANLEY PERSON, CPA, of New York-based Person and Co. believes in reading for education and relaxation. His e-mail address is
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Author:Person, Stanley
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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