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April 16, 2014

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Book review: ‘The Fear Index’

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The Details

The Fear Index
Four stars
By Robert Harris, $26

You might know thriller author Robert Harris from The Ghost Writer—the 2007 novel Roman Polanski turned into an Ewan McGregor film. But if you’re looking to read Harris’s words untouched, start with his new book The Fear Index.

The plot: Scientist-turned-billionaire hedge fund maestro Alex Hoffman is having an ironic week. He’s mysteriously received an old Charles Darwin book, really expensive, no apparent sender. He’s been attacked in his highly secured home. And now he has to present his automated investment system, VIXAL-4, to a panel of would-be investors. The irony? The Darwin book is all about fear, the home invasion scares the crap out of Hoffman, and the VIXAL-4 system (aka the “fear index”) places market bets based on society’s measurable fears. The big question: Could the mayhem in Hoffman’s personal life and his new algorithmic system somehow be related?

The Fear Index is everything a thriller should be: It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s got a likeable protagonist and the ending is solid. Even if you don’t know what a hedge fund is, you’ll like reading it. Or you can wait three years for the movie.

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