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  • Written by Lee Vance
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On Sale: August 03, 2010
Pages: 320 | ISBN: 978-0-307-59380-1
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In the seven years since his son, Kyle, disappeared off the streets of Manhattan, Mark Wallace has been slowly rebuilding his career as an energy market analyst and struggling to keep his family intact. But things are about to take a dangerous turn. After a terrorist attack on a Russian oil pipeline, a colleague slips Mark classified information about Saudi oil fields, then suddenly turns up dead. With his family still reeling from Kyle’s disappearance, Mark takes it upon himself to learn how these seemingly disparate pieces all fit together. In a remarkable high-wire balancing act, Lee Vance has combined the intrigue of finance, the cutthroat world of energy politics, and the emotional pull of a family in crisis into a powerful, gripping thriller.

Excerpt

1

I woke early and listened to Claire breathe. She had her back to me, but she didn’t sound like she was sleeping, so I rolled onto my side and used one hand to gently massage her neck and shoulders. Some mornings she ignored me, some mornings we made love, and some mornings she wept. After a few minutes of no response, I got up and got ready for work.

The kitchen was dark and cold. I flipped on the under-counter lights, opened the valve on the softly clanking radiator, and then set out the usual weekday breakfast for Claire and Kate—fruit, cereal, and yogurt. On Fridays I add a chocolate croissant, cutting it in half for the two of them to share.

Frank, the night doorman, had a taxi waiting by the time I got downstairs. He said good morning and solemnly handed me a few pieces of mail addressed to my son. It was a shock when I first received mail for Kyle about a year after he disappeared—a solicitation from some preteen magazine. I spent the day thinking about it and then knocked on the door of the building super, Mr. Dimitrios. Tears in his eyes, he admitted that he’d been intercepting junk mail addressed to Kyle for the past twelve months and turned over a shoe box full. I made myself go through it—Reggie Kinnard, the detective working with us, had mentioned that the psychopaths who kidnap children will occasionally amuse themselves by sending mail to the victim’s family. There wasn’t anything unusual in the box. A friendly representative of the Direct Marketing Association, who I spoke to on the phone, suggested I simply scrawl the word “deceased” on everything and return it to the post office. Instead, I had Mr. Dimitrios continue intercepting it, so Claire and Kate wouldn’t see it, and arranged for Frank to pass it along. These days, it’s all solicitations for acne products and CD clubs and summer-job programs and magazines like Maxim and Outside. The kind of stuff any nineteen-year-old might receive. The kind of stuff Kyle might actually be interested in, if he’s still alive somewhere.

I stopped to pick up the papers at an all-night newsstand on Seventy-second Street and then went to work. There’s always someone at the office when I arrive, no matter the time—the hedge fund I rent space from trades twenty-four hours a day. There are only about sixty employees, but they occupy an entire floor of a Midtown office building, the northern half of which is a single large unpartitioned trading room. One corner of the room is taken up by the fund’s namesake, a midnight blue 1966 Ford Shelby AC Cobra that sits on a low dais, halogen spotlights reflecting off its mirrorlike finish. The car had proved too large for the elevators, so Walter Coleman, the fund’s founder, had arranged to have it hoisted by a crane after workers cut a garage door–sized opening into the side of the building.

When Walter’s son, Alex, first suggested setting me up as an independent energy analyst a year and a half after Kyle vanished, I was hesitant. I needed the money, but I didn’t know if I was capable of committing to a job the way I had before, or if I could be successful as a freelance pundit even if I did. My entire career had been on the sell side, peddling research on oil companies to clients of the investment bank I worked for. Eighteen months out of the market, and lacking the institutional connections that had made people want to talk to me, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to deliver anything of value. Save one or two old friends, I was right to think that my former sources would abandon me but wrong to worry that it would matter. Cobra was the granddaddy of the hedge-fund community, progenitor of multiple generations of firms that gossiped and fought and generally behaved like an extended family. Alex and his father made a few calls on my behalf, and suddenly I had a dozen clients, all funds that Wall Street was clamoring to do business with. Pretty soon there wasn’t a sell-side guy on the Street who wouldn’t drop everything for me, anxious for a favorable mention to my clientele. And as I grew more influential, my old sources started reaching out to me again. Business prospered. Even the recent market crash had been a blessing in disguise, the clients who went under replaced by newly de-levered and deeply chastened survivors desperate for genuine ideas and analysis to supplant their soured credit strategies.

The biggest plus was that I rarely had to travel anymore. The traditional asset managers I’d covered had kept me on the hop across America and Europe, demanding my physical presence as an act of fealty, and dinner and a nice bottle of wine as tribute. It had been tough with a young family. I regularly kissed Claire and the kids good-bye on a Sunday night, knowing I was committed to spending the rest of the week in a series of barren hotel rooms and that I was leaving her to deal with most of the parenting alone. I missed being with them and felt bad about abandoning Claire, but—God help me—I never backed away from an assignment, craving the success, and the recognition, and the monetary reward. My new job let me be home most nights, my hedge-fund clientele indifferent to face time and insistent on buying their own meals, but the sad reality was that no amount of time now would ever make up for what I’d lost.

My office is on the southern half of the floor, around the corner from the trading room. After grabbing a cup of coffee from the kitchen, I settled in at my desk and went through the business and international news. I pay attention to bylines and keep track of reporters who seem particularly insightful or well connected; I’m wary of Wall Street groupthink, and journalists are surprisingly easy to cultivate. There’s always something they haven’t been able to write, or want to write, or already wrote but don’t feel they fully understand. And with more than twenty years’ experience with the energy markets, I’m a great guy to bounce things off. I understand the industry upside down, am free with information, and never publish anything of my own—although I can be cajoled into dictating the odd market piece when a friendly reporter is in a bind. gas prices set to soar again or ten oil stocks smart investors own now. In return, they ask questions of people my Wall Street connections might not have access to, feed me tidbits they haven’t figured out how to hang a story on yet, and give me early warning of big stories that might have market impact. Everyone wins.

At about eight, I banged out a two-page market update to my client base, telling them what they should be watching out for. I stood, stretched, and gave myself fifteen minutes to stare out the window next to my desk. The window was what made me decide to co-locate with Alex and Walter. It might even have been what persuaded me to try life as an independent analyst. It faces due south onto Park Avenue, and at almost any time of day I can see hundreds of people on the street below.

I was on a plane to London the night Kyle vanished. As we taxied to the gate at Heathrow, a stewardess bent forward and told me that a customer service manager would be meeting me on the jetway. I was too groggy to suspect anything other than the faux-warm handshake and stilted chitchat that airline management occasionally bestow on frequent business travelers. I recall hoping he’d brought a courtesy cart so I wouldn’t have to make the long walk to Immigration.

The next twelve hours are pretty much a blur. I remember the physical impact of hearing that Kyle was missing, as if I’d had the wind knocked out of me and couldn’t recover. I remember sitting hunched in my seat on the long flight back to New York, feeling as if I were falling and falling, with the ground nowhere in sight. Most of all, I remember the look on Claire’s face when we met at the police station—the grief that persuaded me the nightmare was true, and the guilt that’s never vanished. It wasn’t until later that I began wondering what might have happened differently if I’d been home.

Amy, my assistant, walks in on me occasionally when I’m staring out my office window and makes gentle fun of me for being so entranced. It helps me think, I tell her, feeling bad about the lie. The truth is something I can only just bear to admit to myself. Claire and I never discussed the evening Kyle vanished in any detail, but I read the statement she made to the police and the description she gave of the clothes he was wearing. Despite all the years that have passed, I’m still searching the crowd below for a tall twelve-year-old in an oversized parka and a green knit school hat.


From the Hardcover edition.
Lee Vance|Author Q&A

About Lee Vance

Lee Vance - The Garden of Betrayal

Photo © Joanne Savio

Lee Vance is a graduate of Harvard Business School and a retired general partner of Goldman Sachs Group. He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.

Author Q&A

Q:  You include a quote at the beginning of the book, “Judas, his betrayer, knew the place because Jesus and the disciples went there often.  So Judas led the way to the garden…”, John 12:2—3.  Why did you include that quote and how does this play into your title, THE GARDEN OF BETRAYAL?
A:  The book is a thriller in the sense that there’s an underlying conspiracy to commit terrible crimes, and the protagonist is in constant jeopardy from seen and unseen forces, but it’s also very much a novel about relationships – about the forces that bind a family together, and the camaraderie of the workplace, and the unexpected links we sometimes form with people who randomly enter our lives.  I included the quote and chose the title to reflect the fact that most terrible for the protagonist of all the dangers he faces is his betrayal by a friend. 
 
The working title, by the way, was The Garden of Gethsemane, but a close acquaintance sagely observed that people not familiar with the bible would likely think it was a travel book, that people familiar with the bible would likely think it was a religious book, and that no one would be able to pronounce it.  Which was a shame, because the name ‘Gethsemane’ literally translates as ‘oil-press place’ in ancient Hebrew, which tied nicely to the energy theme. 
 
Q: In THE GARDEN OF BETRAYAL, protagonist Mark Wallace works for a hedge fund, advising a select group of investors on global energy pricing.  At one point, he is given data on Saudi oil production. Why would this be valuable information for someone in Mark’s field?
A:  No one knows how much oil there is in the world, or what percentage of that oil is recoverable.  The only certainties are that the amount is finite, and that we’ll recover less than all of it.  Hence long term – in twenty years, or fifty years, or a hundred years – we’re going to run out.  The key questions are whether we’ll have time to make a smooth transition to an alternative source of energy, and what that source will be. 
 
The Saudis are particularly important at this moment in history because they’re the one major oil producer thought to have proven, developed, excess capacity i.e.  established wells that they aren’t currently pumping.  But no one outside the Kingdom knows what that excess capacity is, nor do we know much about the rate at which their active fields are running down.  There’s a school of thought that holds that the Saudis don’t actually have any excess capacity, and that their production is set to plunge in the near future.  If so, the unexpected shortages would wreak massive global economic damage, spark famine, and almost certainly lead to further military conflict in the Middle East.  Hence any information about Saudi capacity would be enormously valuable to a wide variety of business, political, and social institutions.
 
Q: What sort of research did you do into energy markets?
A:  I co-managed Energy Trading at Goldman Sachs for a number of years, so I’m pretty familiar with the markets.  I interviewed some of my old friends, read through a bunch of International Energy Agency documents, and poked around on the Internet a fair bit.  There’s a big community of Hubbard Peak theorists – people who are convinced we’re going to run out of oil any day now, and who are busy stocking up on canned food and guns.  I certainly hope they’re wrong. 
 
Q: Among many other revelations, one thing that this horrific oil spill in the Gulf has exposed about us is our dependency on oil.  We haven’t yet figured out how to live without it.  At one point in your book, Mark Wallace says, “No matter what happens in the future…I strongly doubt there will be anything like a Cadillac Escalade, save perhaps in a museum.” In your research, did you find that this is where we are heading? 
A:  Energy experts who downplay the risk of longer-term oil shortages correctly observe that higher prices directly stimulate exploration and technological innovation.  Hence the oil supply crisis of 1979 led to the oil price crash of the 1990’s, as producers found new fields, figured out how to pump more oil from existing fields, and developed techniques to tap previously uneconomic fields.
 
Ultimately – definitionally – the world will run out of new fields, and old fields will cease to produce.  And the Gulf disaster suggests that developing previous uneconomic fields – fields deep underwater, or in other ecologically sensitive areas or difficult circumstances – may prove less easy than industry pundits have assumed. 

Again, I don’t know if we’re going to run out of oil in twenty years, or fifty years, or a hundred years, but I do know that we’re going to run out, and that the less prepared we are for the transition, the greater the economic and social cost will be. 
 
Q: In the prologue of THE GARDEN OF BETRAYAL, Mark’s 12 year old son, Kyle, is snatched off the street as he is on his way to rent a movie.  Chapter One cuts to seven years later and Kyle has never been seen or heard from again.  Library Journal said of THE GARDEN OF BETRAYAL, “…[Vance’s] real strength is his sympathetic portrayal of a grieving family”.  As a father of three, was Kyle’s disappearance difficult for you to write? 
A:  Hugely.  In fact it made me nervous about the whole project, because I was afraid the emotional impact of the prologue might put readers off.  Fortunately, upsetting as the disappearance is, most readers seem drawn in enough to want to continue.  And while Kyle’s kidnapping overhangs the entire book, I tried to focus on the positive aspects of how a family carries on together after a tragedy.
 
Q: At one point some of the characters create a storyboard.  Is that how you plan your story?
A:  Ha.  Yes.  I tape index cards all over the walls of my office.  People tend to laugh when they see them.  But it can be really difficult to sequence a complicated plot, and to make sure that all the ends tie together neatly.  Which is important to me.  I hate sloppy or improbable plotting.  Years back, I read Mark Twain’s devastating critique of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, and still wince to recall some of the physical and temporal errors Twain identified.  I work hard to get the details right. 
 
Q: You were a trader at Goldman Sachs for twenty years.  How does your previous experience in the financial world inform your writing?
A:  I guess in the way that any writer’s life informs his or her writing.  It’s the world I grew up in.  I know the people, and the markets, and the milieu, and I use those elements to populate and site my stories.   
 
On a more personal note, it’s deeply distressing to me that so many mistakes were made by so many financial institutions in recent years - and by regulatory bodies, and legislatures - and that those mistakes hurt so many people.  But I’m still very proud of my association with Goldman Sachs.  I have enormous regard for their senior leadership, and continue to believe that they are a fundamentally ethical organization. 

Q: What’s next for you?
A:  The working title of number three is Red Money.  Texans, Chinese, currency manipulations, and domestic terrorists with precision-guided munitions.  I hope everyone enjoys it. 


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

“A dazzler. . . . Almost every chapter adds a new layer of complexity and seductive characters.”
Bloomberg

“Pure thriller, with enough personal, political, and financial intrigue to make the stoutest heart race. . . . [Vance] is able to convey the slimy, shadowy world of the energy industry with impressive talent, transporting the reader into the underbelly of society with ease. . . . A timely and engrossing read.”
The Daily Beast
 
“Engrossing. . . . Thought-provoking entertainment.”
The Economist

"Vance follows the success of his first book... with another engrossing financial thriller... [He] is adept at inserting complex information without slowing the pace of the action or disrupting ongoing suspense."
Publishers Weekly

"A skillfully crafted, highly intelligent, page-turning thriller, even better than Vance's fine debut. . . . Filled with arresting characters . . . the tension mounts relentlessly."
Booklist (starred)

"The cast of supporting characters is complex and well-drawn, and the tension is palpable throughout. Vance’s debut thriller . . . was a tour-de-force, and The Garden of Betrayal will certainly cement his fast-growing reputation."
BookPage

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