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A Fatal Debt: A Novel
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A Fatal Debt: A Novel

3.05 of 5 stars 3.05  ·  rating details  ·  124 ratings  ·  36 reviews
This timely debut thriller by an award-winning Financial Times columnist is a gripping tale of lethal intrigue set in the high-stakes Wall Street world—where wealth and privilege are no match for jealousy and betrayal.

Ben Cowper, an attending psychiatrist at the prestigious New York–Episcopal Hospital, is stunned to learn the identity of the emergency patient he’s just b
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ebook, 288 pages
Published June 26th 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Kelly Knapp
May 11, 2012 Kelly Knapp rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: doctors, psychiatrists, traders. mystery/intrigue buffs
Recommended to Kelly by: Goodreads Firstreads giveaway
It wasn't the writing with which I had difficulty, but the plot. The story just didn't capture my interest.

Dr. Cowper is a psychiatrist. One evening a wealthy man is brought to the hospital by his wife. She fears that he is planning to harm himself. Cowper get him to self-admit. When the patient wants to return home, the Doctor is "encouraged" by hospital administration to release him. One week later, the patient murders a man. His attorney decides to use the early release as part of the defence
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Linda
In “A Fatal Debt,” Dr. Ben Cowper is a psychiatrist working in the Harold L and Nora Shapiro pavilion of Episcopal Hospital and is pulled into a world of financial and personal greed and power when a very wealthy patient arrives at the hospital and he is asked to treat him. The man appears to present a possible suicidal threat. The Doctor is faced with making a choice on whether to forcibly commit this wealthy donor for psychiatric treatment or allow him to return for home with his loving wife f ...more
Ware
Ever seen a runaway freight train? Well, neither have I, although I have seen the aftermath of one. From that point you can fill in many of the blanks and have a pretty good understanding of what really caused the engine to jump the tracks.

This first novel is like a runaway train. It starts powerfully with the admission of a former captain of finance to the psych ward at a major New York hospital. The young shrink is pressured to let his patient, assumed to be suicidal, go home and get treatment
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Michael Griswold
A Fatal Debt by John Gapper is a particular topical thriller with the trouble on Wall Street, and the level of mistrust that exists between Main Street and the rich and powerful.

Psychiatrist Ben Cowper bows to pressure from his bosses to treat a highly connected though fallen Wall Street financier from home, rather than an inpatient setting and ends up trapped in a web of wealth, privilege, and power when his new client is suspected of murdering the former business partner, whom he blames for hi
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Karen
The problem with setting fictional books within real life events is that you seem to run the risk of alienating readers who aren't particularly interested in the subject, environment, or even the event itself. Particularly when the subject matter is something that could be perceived as a bit dry or more than a bit outside the average person's own experience. Hands up to being one of those people - financial system crashes, financier's behaving badly, guaranteed to have me humming The Girl From I ...more
Ethan
The crash of the Wall Street Market ushered in a new era of consciousness of the wrongdoings of those running the U.S. financial system. Fatal flaws came to light, and the American people demanded retribution for the misuse of their money. When the government, in an attempt to hinder a looming economic depression, bailed out large financial institutions, the lives of millions of Americans were instantly changed. There was a large focus on the impact of these events on lower and middle-class citi ...more
Breakingviews
By Jeffrey Goldfarb

To fictionalize the Wall Street events of 2008 satisfyingly requires more than just borrowing from them. The real-life narrative was so spectacular and has been retold so often that engaging even a casual follower of financial news takes more than a little extra imagination. Go figure then that a fact-based chronicler of the times would be the one to accomplish the feat.

Imagine Goldman Sachs had merged with Lehman Brothers, stuffed it with surprising amounts of mortgage-relat
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Carol
‘A Fatal Debt’ by John Grapper started off great but soon went downhill for me. Dr. Cowper, a psychiatrist was on night duty gets called to attend to Harry Shapiro. That was out of the usual standard procedure. The psychiatrist is usually third in line to see the patient but Harry Shapiro got to skip the second step.

The Shapiros were wealthy and had made such large donations to the hospital that their engraved names were prominently displayed and there promises of more large gifts. Rules were
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Gaby
I couldn't put down A Fatal Debt. Fortunately, I started the book while traveling to Boston so I had nearly 4 hours of uninterrupted reading.

John Gapper gives us a smart, ambitious and sympathetic lead character/amateur sleuth in Dr. Ben Cowper. Ben is on duty when Harry Shapiro, the man donated the funds and for whom a hospital wing at New York-Episcopal is named, arrives at the hospital. Ben's initial treatment of Harry makes and impression but it is still a surprise when billionaire Harry Sh
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Sam
Dr. Ben Cowper is an attending psychiatrist at Episcopla hospital. Enter Harry Shapiro an ex Wall Street Banking Exec and his wife Nora. Harry has been depressed ever since the market fell and he was forced to resign after losing billions of dollars. Nora found him with a gun and was afraid that he was going to kill himself so she brought him to the hospital. Ben admits him and thinks that he is done with them. But Harry insist on Ben treating him and then insists on going home. With Harry's ins ...more
JoAnn
I won this book in the goodreads giveaway program and really enjoyed it. I am surprised at the typical rating reviewers have been giving it, because I think it deserves a better review and rating. It was interesting, written well, it flowed smoothly, the pacing was good and the characters were developed. In addition, the plot, though it followed the typical timeline and flow of the mystery genre, was original and offered some insight into our current financial problems. It gave a cynical but pro ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE. I’d come to ask about a fatal debt.’

Ben Cowper, a psychiatrist at a prestigious hospital in New York, has just been assigned an emergency patient. His patient is Harry Shapiro, who is a prominent donor to the hospital and was formerly a powerful investment banker. Harry Shapiro is now jobless and bitter, and possibly suicidal. His wife is worried about him, but when Harry rejects an extended voluntary stay in hospital, Ben releases hi
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Denise
3.0 out of 5 stars - Be skeptical...don't believe everything. Verify.

I enjoyed this suspense thriller about a psychiatrist who gets involved in a patient's revenge plot that leads to murder.

Dr. Ben Cowper is called to the ER to evaluate a patient who may be dangerous to himself or others. He's stunned to find that the identity of the man he's asked to treat is none other than disgraced Wall Street banker, Harry Shapiro. In a convoluted series of events, Ben's life is turned inside out as he beco
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Cassaundra Aunna
I actually ended up really enjoying this book. I never saw it ending the way it did....I starting thinking along that line eventually, but not until it was basically already revealing itself! John Gapper definitely belongs in the writing world. I have not read his other book, but I look forward to reading (and owning) more of his work in the future. I have always and a love for crime novels, but so many authors get it wrong. John Gapper was spot on. He created a story line that works, and could ...more
Karen
I am about 1/3 of the way through and I am enjoying this a lot. A couple of surprises already. This is a little different murder mystery, with Wall Street and high finance and psychiatrists all involved. Planning to spend the day by the pool tomorrow and finish it up.

Look forward to another book by this author.

I am finished now. The book did not live up to my early expectations. I think the characters could have been better developed. I would have liked more details on the Wall Street workings t
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Holly
This is a murder mystery that isn't bad, but isn't great either. A lot of the background is well set for the characters and some of the plot twists are interesting, but overall I felt that the book just lacked something...and what that is, I'm not sure! Perhaps too many things just were beyond the sensibility for the main character to have taken on himself. I found it difficult to believe him (or in him) some of the time which smacks of a credibility problem for the book as a whole. That said, i ...more
Dan
Harry Shapiro, a former Wall Street banker, is admitted to the hospital for psychiatric tests after losing his prestigious job. His wife thinks he is suicidal and wanted him to be evaluated. Ben Cowper, the psychiatrist, wants to admit but Harry is soon released and a few days later there is a death at his Hampton’s home. Ben Cowper’s life is soon turned upside when his home is vandalized and his attacked.

Filled with a lot of financial data that is interesting, but falls flat on mystery and thri
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Annie
Protagonist is a psychiatrist - a dweeb of the first water. Author writes that upon arriving at an aerodrome, the person on land pronounced 'about' as 'aboot' therefore, he wrote, the drome must have been close to the Canadian border. I have never, anywhere in Canada, heard anyone pronounce 'about' as 'aboot'. Where DO they get this peculiar idea? Someone straight off the boat from Glasgow might say it...the American underling at the US Embassy in Holland years ago said the same stupid thing. Th ...more
Amanda Tower
I tried to like this book, but I just couldn't get into it. No matter how much I tried to visualize and relate to the main character, Ben, I struggled until about 75 pages into the story when I just gave up. The topic didn't particularly interest me (the financial crisis and big-ego bankers), but because of the mystery/thriller aspect, I thought I'd give it a try. It just didn't stick with me.

I really felt like something crucial was missing - character development maybe? I don't think I'll stic
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Lynn
A Good Reads giveaway! I'm looking forward to trying out this new-to-me author and it looks like it could be a great fast paced story! ...I really want to give this book 2.5 or maybe even 2.75. I so wanted to like this story and it started out great! I couldn't wait to see what happened next and then about the middle, it just kind of died. I wondered where we were going with the story and found I wasn't really caring for the characters any more and had to force myself to finish.
Cynthia
I'd probably really give this book a 2.5 in rating. It was okay, but I thought it kind of ... just 'on-going'...maybe seemed alittle 'flat', with the ending coming together abit quickly. I believe this is the author's 1st book, so I think he does have a good start though. It was a fast, easy read & I appreciate that.
I also appreciate that I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway!
Andy Plonka
I'm not a big fan of mysteries in which psychiatrists play a major role or financial mysteries and this is both. I did manage to follow most of the logic which means the author used simple enough explanations that the math impaired reader can cope. It's probably a lot more fun if you reaaly understand what is going on.
Jane Walker
Not very good. The central character, Ben, comes across at times as stupid, which was not, I think, the author's intention. There are several points in the story where I thought, no, surely not, he wouldn't have done that. And the ending is all too predictable.
Gapper can write, but he needs to do better than this.
Thomas Anderson
Great premise and interestingly similar to what happened during the financial crisis but the hero in this book is all over the place an has too many side stories to keep up with. At times, it seems the writer could not figure out how to transition a relationship or idea so it is just inserted abruptly.
Scott Ivlow
I enjoyed this thriller because it was such a really good read. Not to many thrillers have a psychatrist as a leading character and who has client that once was a Wall Street Executive. Since the Wall Street Collapse this one of the few fiction books that is some what written about the subject.
Rashmi
Another book dealing with shenanigans in the financial sector.
It's nominally a murder mystery with Wall St., high finance,
psychiatrists all thrown in. A big part deals with the narrator
figuring out what's acceptable for the profession. I liked the
Wall St. action (and the huge egos).
Rich
So overall the book, the characters, and the plot were pretty good. Even the writing seemed pretty strong. The problem I had with the book was about 3/4 the way through I just wanted it to end. All the excitement was in the beginning and there was no way of getting it back.
Allison
This is a mystery set against the Wall Street debacle -- with bankers working at a stand-in for Lehman Bros, and another for Goldman Sachs. It's clearly an amateur novel....but interesting to derive (ha) an insider's view of the 2008 collapse in a fictional context.
Peggy
I found this book very entertaining from start to finish. Not knowing the opinions of a pyschiatrist I was fascinated with the way he took on the "investigation" himself. What an interesting twist in the end.
Margie
Obviously I liked this book, or I would not have put five stars. It is well written, kept my attention and made me want to keep reading. For more of a review go to www.opesopinions.com.
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Chief business commentator and an associate editor of the Financial Times. He was named one of the 100 most influential men in Britain by GQ magazine in 2009. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
More about John Gapper...
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