Author: Sean B. Fraser
Author: Sean B. Fraser
Everyday throughout the world thousands are experiencing identity theft where someone pretends to be someone else by assuming the person's identity. The primary objective of this crime is to gain access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in the person's name. When you consider the possible magnitude of these crimes, you can well appreciate the horrible adverse consequences that the victim can suffer. And very often the crimes are intertwined with money laundering, drug smuggling, murders, human trafficking and a host of other illegal activities.
With this in mind and coupled with his experience as an Australian tax accountant and financial investigator, Sean B. Fraser has crafted a chilling thriller with his debut novel Extreme Betrayal that focuses on a young chartered accountant, Sarah Mitchell who is a specialist in tax, forensic accounting, and financial planning. As a result of her assignment with the London office of the prestigious accounting firm of Deloittes, Sarah is offered an excellent opportunity to broaden her horizons and work for the Vienna firm of Gassinger, Eggar, and Altman. Although, Sarah has limited access to the partners, the thought that some of their activities were not exactly copacetic would never have entered her mind when first engaged to work for them.
Sarah's life is turned upside down when one morning she is given a parcel wrapped in brown paper, similar in size to a medium briefcase by one of her firm's front desk attendants. The parcel had been addressed to her, however, it stated her address as being the fifth floor of the office building rather than the fourth floor, where Sarah works. Could this have been a simple error or was there more to this?
Opening the package in her office, Sarah is staggered when she discovers that the contents contains thirty-five thousand euros in cash, codes, bank details, ten passport, eighteen medical cards, twenty-three driver's licenses, forty-five credit cards, a book of fifty checks, bearer checks, blank birth certificates, and various visa and passport stamps, some of which contain her own personal details. Somewhat confused as to what this is all about, Sarah surmises that she must be caught up in a fraud involving stolen identities, as well her own, and she suspects that some of her fellow workers may be involved. Trying to keep calm and maintain a level head, Sarah contacts her close friend, Anne Peacock whom she implicitly trusts based on the fact that she is employed in another large accounting firm and practices in Vienna as a consultant to various financial institutions in Europe mainly pertaining to the rising occurrence of ATM skimming and how to combat it.
When Sarah meets Anne, she recounts what has happened and tells her that while the parcel was being handed to her by the attendant, a call came in from someone upstairs on the fifth floor of her firm who may have been expecting it and who was quite peeved that it had been given to her. Incidentally, the fifth floor is the private domain of the partners where very few of the firm's employees dare to enter.
Anne confirms that Sarah has been the victim of identity theft and it is imperative she immediately get on top of it. To help her, Anne brings in her assistant, Gareth who explains the mechanics as to what is probably happening and that she definitely has been robbed by cyber criminals who have gained access to her finances and are using her accounts to launder funds obtained from phishing and Trojan scams. Moreover, If Anne is caught, she could be facing years in prison for a crime she never committed.
Sarah is determined to get back her identity, clear her name, and find out who are the culprits-something that is easier said than done. Without informing the Vienna police, Sarah hatches up a plan to follow the money trail. However, things fall apart and she becomes involved a cross fire with some very dangerous characters who are presently under criminal investigation. Along the way, Sarah meets up and falls in love with a French lawyer whose father and uncle are involved in an investigation concerning a multitude of international crimes and as a result they become intertwined with Sarah and her pursuit of the culprits that stole her identity.
The main drawback of this
novel is that Fraser spins his yarn with an abundance of overly
detached emotions wherein he resorts to excessive telling and not
enough showing. The result is that readers are left with very few
memorable characters, images and scenes. In fact, the characters are
difficult to care about because very little attention is paid to
carefully selected details that combine description with action which
are essential ingredients if you wish to stir the reader's emotional
response. On the other hand, Fraser has employed his knowledge as a
financial investigator to great advantage and is living proof that
“write about what you know” edict can lead to a very intriguing
piece of fiction, and in this case, even an unpredictable ending. No
doubt, with a good content editor, Fraser could develop into a
noteworthy novelist whom I look forward to reading in the future.