Friday, April 12, 2013

NOTHING GAINED by Phillip Y. Kim


The drowning of a prominent investment banker in Hong Kong forces his wife to investigate a complex weave of lies, greed, and intrigue behind the scenes of the Asian financial sector.


This debut thriller from a Hong Kong banker-turned-author gets deep into the seedy side of the finance industry in Asia. Kim draws on his experience at banks like Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley to create a story rooted in the post-financial crisis investment world. Jason Donahue is a star banker at a boutique firm. After he drowns during a midnight swim gone wrong, hints of disturbingly risky investments and corruption begin to surface. His wife Cheryl must delve into a world that is more dangerous than she realizes to figure out just what was behind her gilded lifestyle. When her children are threatened, she becomes desperate to learn the truth, even though she may not like what she finds.

Kim's novel explores what it means to do business in Asia. One memorable Western character tries to browbeat his way through deals like he would in New York or Las Vegas. Others understand that you have to play by certain rules and participate in unspoken rituals in order to build trust. Kim's intimate understanding of these unspoken rules sets this novel apart from other tales of corrupt finance types. There is an air of moral ambiguity that pervades the story. Although a few characters end up feeling stereotypically evil, others demonstrate surprising complexity.

Hong Kong in this story is fast-paced and glitzy. Kim takes readers from the luxury apartments of Repulse Bay to the bars of Lan Kwai Fong and over on the ferry to the karaoke brothels of Macau. He creates a vivid picture of a specific side of the city that is actually very real. I see hints of this world everyday, but this novel provides a peek into the back rooms and business deals of an elite sector of Hong Kong society. Even the most scrupulous characters must be willing to compromise their integrity in order to survive.


Phillip Y. Kim blogs at Asia's One Percent.


I received a review copy of this book courtesy of Penguin China.


Do you think it is possible to be extremely financially successful while always making ethical choices? Do you think that is different if you are in Hong Kong vs. New York vs. London vs. Singapore, etc.?


  1. Thanks for posting this review! I've wanted to read this novel, and now you've convinced me to put it on my list.

    Interesting question about morality, financial success and location. I've heard of crazy things that go on in Chicago, so I think alluring places like Hong Kong and Singapore--and New York and London to an extent-- probably exacerbate that. Things always seem more exciting abroad.

  2. This is a timely topic as more and more books are coming out about the new wealth in China. Good review.


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