by Jim Flinchum

"Why is it so unreasonable that you should be expected to behave in society according to society's rules?"

Every action in life results in a reaction. Every decision, however minor, will affect not only the maker of that decision but potentially anyone he or she comes into contact with at a later time. Of course, this is not always a popular concept with many people, and they try to rationalize that what they are doing, whether accepted by or frowned upon by society, is ultimately their business. Yet, very few people exist in complete isolation, and the steps they take along life's corridors may ultimately echo in the lives of countless others for years in the future.

Paybacks is a novel that explores how a person's poor choices can have far-reaching effects on others and especially on our loved ones. For example, financial advisor Bill Seagraves knows that his manipulation of his clients' funds will ultimately be discovered and that his victims will suffer. He rationalizes that they should have been smarter with their investments. When his Ponzi scheme unravels, he accepts his jail sentence almost as a relief, believing that he has sufficiently protected his family from any long-term consequences for his crimes. He is wrong. In a similar way, one of Seagraves' former friends and victims, Jeff Franklin, rationalizes that his suicide after he loses so much money in the Ponzi scheme will actually benefit his wife and family. He, too, is wrong. Both men's actions set in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy the same families they have tried so hard to safeguard.

Flinchum's tale resembles in many ways a Shakespearian tragedy. Like in all such works, one or more of the principal characters has a fatal flaw that when called into play wreaks havoc on themselves and on those that surround them. The rather narrow and self-focused view of reality common to Bill, Jeff, and Jeff's son, Eric, are reminiscent of the tragic hero in the Bard's King Lear, and like that tragedy of hubris and madness intertwined, each character is a complex individual who succumbs to his own unique form of self-delusion, and because each man fails to foresee how his actions will effect his family and friends, they in turn suffer needlessly.

The author, like Eric, is a former member of the US Army's Special Forces and an expert marksman. In addition, his wealth of experience in the financial industry, including his roles as Senior Vice President for a major bank, as an investment advisor, and his being licensed as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA), give his writing a factual depth that only an industry insider could easily pull off. However, what truly makes this award-winning book worth reading beyond its thought-provoking theme is Flinchum's juxtaposing of certain key characters. Eric's dark and brooding journey is chilling, but it is made even more poignant by the final, desperate scrambling of his brother Josh, possibly the novel's most sympathetic personality. Enriched by emotional complexity, suspense, and a smooth narrative, Flinchum's financial cautionary tale is a solid investment.

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