It must have been about three fifty in the morning that something caused Hoffmann to wake. He struggled up from the depths of sleep and opened his eyes to behold a celestial vision of fiery white light. It was geometrically formed, like a graph, with thinly spaced horizontal lines and wide-apart vertical columns, but with no data plotted—a mathematician’s dream, but not in fact a dream, he realised after squinting at it for a few seconds; rather the result of eight five-hundred-watt tungsten-halogen security lights shining brilliantly through the slats of the window blinds—enough wattage to light a small soccer ground; he had been meaning to have them changed.
The lights were on a thirty-second timer. As he waited for them to turn off, he considered what might have interrupted the infrared beams that criss-crossed the garden to trigger them. It would be a cat, he thought, or a fox, or a piece of overgrown foliage waving in the wind. And after a few seconds the lights were indeed doused and the room returned to darkness.
But now Hoffmann was wide awake. He reached for his mobile. It was one of a batch specially produced for the hedge fund that could encrypt certain sensitive phone calls and emails. To avoid disturbing Gabrielle—she detested this habit of his even more than she hated him smoking—he switched it on under the duvet and briefly checked the Profit & Loss screen for Far Eastern trading. In Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney the markets were, as predicted, falling but VIXAL-4 was already up 0.3 per cent, which meant by his calculations that he had made almost $3 million since going to bed. Satisfied, he turned off the device and replaced it on the night-stand, and that was when he heard a noise: soft, unidentifiable, and yet oddly disturbing, as if someone was moving around downstairs.
Staring at the tiny red dot of light of the smoke detector fixed to the ceiling, he extended his hand cautiously beneath the duvet towards Gabrielle. Lately, after they had made love, if she couldn’t sleep, she had got into the habit of going down to her studio to work. His palm traversed the warm undulations of the mattress until his fingertips brushed the skin of her hip. Immediately she muttered something unintelligible and rolled her back to him, pulling the duvet tighter around her shoulders.
The noise came again. He raised himself on his elbows and strained his ears. It was nothing specific—an occasional faint thump. It could just be the unfamiliar heating system, or a door caught in a draught.
THE FEAR INDEX by Robert Harris. Copyright © 2011 by Robert Harris. Published by arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
Dr. Max Hoffman is a legend. A physicist once employed on the Large Hadron Collider, he’s now focusing his genius on the world of finance, partnering with a suave investment banker to create a hedge fund that makes investment decisions based not on human judgment, but on a complex computer program he has written. None of his rivals knows how he does it, but somehow, his algorithm analyzes volatility and fear, and uses the information to choose stocks. His results are astonishing…and extremely lucrative.
But Hoffman’s life of luxury soon breaks down when an intruder breaks into his home, injuring his head and sending him into a spiral of violence and paranoia. Because it’s the first in an extraordinary chain of events that seem bent on destroying him. And as both his personal and professional lives start to unravel, it isn’t long before he’s questioning who—or what—is the real mastermind behind the attacks.
A fiendishly smart thriller from Robert Harris, The Fear Index is a story that’s just as chilling and compelling as his bestselling novel The Ghost. A journey into the world of high finance, artificial intelligence and the modern embodiment of evil, it’s not to be missed.
Hardcover Book : 288 pages
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc./Random House ( January 31, 2012 )
Item #: 13-489671
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.68inches
Product Weight: 12.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
This was my first novel by this author, and it pulled me in rapidly and kept me all the way. What an intriguing idea, that something as dull to most of us as a hedge fund could become a story's villain. The story's elements of online life, such as purchasing something through email without ever talking to the seller, fit together well. I would have liked to know more background about the main character, but I had enough to keep me feeling that he was human.
Reviewer: Scott C
I saw this book reviewed in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and decided to try it. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down until the last page. It's intelligent, current, and well-written. I am glad that I read it and suggest that if this is your genre, you do also.
In the most subtle way, Harris draws you in and treats you to unexpected plot turns that keep you turning pages.
Reviewer: Marv R