Corruption, scandal fill ‘The Capitol Game’

In this day and age, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a sour economy, you gotta love thrillers that involve financial institutions, Washington politics and the military industrial complex.

Such worlds aren’t easy to understand but author Brian Haig has done a splendid job of turning the incomprehensible into something comprehensible in his new financial thriller, “The Capitol Game.” Readers’ brains may throb upon seeing the words “financial thriller,” imagining a numbers-laden story filled with terms such as “OTC derivatives” and a plot involving shadowy bankers battling each other in an unregulated black market.

“The Capitol Game” is a lot more stimulating than that. It’s not as heart-pounding as Haig’s last novel, “The Hunted,” which involved a Russian entrepreneur on the run against the Russian mafia. However, Haig crafts a compelling story that places a strong emphasis on the characters and their dilemmas. It’s an enjoyable read that wades into the waters of corruption and scandal.

Successful Wall Street banker Jack Wiley, a Princeton grad and Army veteran, has come across the discovery of a lifetime. One of his clients is Arvan Chemicals, a small New Jersey company that has created a mysterious polymer that, when coated on any vehicle, is the equivalent of 30 inches of steel. With IEDs and other weapons killing many soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the polymer promises to save many lives and will prove to be a financial boon to its owners. But Arvan, a family-run organization and defense contractor, is in deep financial doo-doo and faces bankruptcy.

Wiley shops his plan to the powerful Capitol Group, an “enormously profitable,” privately held company. After some hard bargaining, they agree to conduct a takeover of Arvan. Jack will be rich, the CG will make billions and the small company’s top brass will come out pretty well, too. Its employees, though, face a future of unemployment lines and financial turmoil.

After clearing a few hurdles, the deal gets done and the Capitol Group starts to mass produce the polymer. But trouble is brewing. The CG doesn’t entirely trust Wiley and sends agents to spy on him. The Pentagon’s investigative arm, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, gets a whiff of the case and Special Agent Mia Jenson goes after it. And the polymer proves to be more problematic than initially advertised.

The troubles turn into a full-blown scandal, the likes of which have rarely been seen in the U.S. government and corporate America. Wiley and the Capitol Group find themselves in hot water as the intrigue grows. But there are a few surprises that may change the game into Wiley’s favor — or not.

Haig, who is best known for his six novels featuring JAG attorney Sean Drummond, knows the Beltway culture pretty well. He is a former special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the son of Alexander Haig, the former Secretary of State who died earlier this year.

Since the Drummond series, Haig has spread his wings with two stand-alone novels, one which may be the beginning of a Jack Wiley
series. Haig has proven himself to be a pretty competent author who knows how to write engaging and intelligent thrillers.

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