In Douglas Brunt’s debut novel, Ghosts of Manhattan, we are introduced to Nick Farmer, a bond trader at a company with unethical business practices, as he ponders his place in life and his job. Although Nick’s job forces him to live a lifestyle of drugs, booze and strippers, he has somehow managed to rise above it all, keeping his head above the murky waters that constantly threaten to drown him and his marriage. Nick Farmer is presented as tarnished saint in a world of sinners, as, even though he has partaken of plenty of drugs and liquor, he has never let it touch his soul. Of all the things he has done, Nick has never cheated on his wife, even though his coworkers are constantly cheating on their wives or girlfriends. Even when temptation arrives in the form of Rebecca James, beautiful correspondent for CNBC, he remains true to her, physically, if not emotionally. Nick’s true moral test is presented to him by Freddie Cook, a risk analyst who informs Nick that the company they both work for, Bear Stearns, is about to go under, along with every other bond trading firm, if they don’t change their unscrupulous selling tactics. Nick realizes that this is his last chance; he can either get out and start life over at thirty-five, or lose his soul forever.
Douglas Brunt certainly shows promise as a writer and presents a well written narrative that is easy and quick to read. However, to me, Ghosts of Manhattan lacks character and heart. The characters that populate Nick’s world seem thinner than the paper the words are printed on. Even Nick, who is going through a struggle, comes across as not being very well fleshed out; and the constant self loathing felt a bit much. Sure, he’s not the best guy in the world, but he’s certainly not the worst, and it never seems to be in question that he is going to do the right thing, because he is ultimately a good guy. He’s dipped his toes in the water, but has never jumped in the simmering cesspool of sin, so it comes as no surprise in the end when he quits his job and begins the journey back to a life away from the dangerous lifestyle he’s been flirting with since graduating college, and repairing the marriage his job has almost destroyed.
That being said, Brunt does show a lot of potential in this freshman effort and I didn’t feel like my time was wasted, so would give his next book a shot.
Final Assessment: It was ok