The Audacity

If one can't rein in the ultrarich, one can at least satirize them. That's the catharsis Ryan Chapman (Riots I Have Known) offers in The Audacity, his merciless, aptly named sophomore novel. Guy Sarvananthan, an American of Sri Lankan ancestry who lives in New York, spent "decades as a struggling composer" before marrying Victoria Stevens, founder of PrevYou, a firm that claims to be this close to a cancer cure. There's just one problem: the company's a fraud, the claim is fake. Victoria disappears, her kayak ending up in the San Francisco Bay, with no one sure whether she died by suicide or just took off. Guy, sensing ruin, stalls for time by taking Victoria's place at a three-day conclave on a Caribbean island, where yacht-owning types have gathered "to pool our fortunes," as the host says, "and decide which global ill to eradicate once and for all!"

That they eradicate nothing isn't a spoiler alert. The fun of The Audacity is in finding out what happens to these delusional types. Some plot developments aren't exactly subtle, but neither are people like these characters. Chapman's approach befits this can-do crowd, and therein lies the appeal for readers critical of free-market absolutism and its ruthless adherents. Late in the book, Guy realizes that "a functioning American life kept you too busy to register its liabilities" and that Victoria, like other power brokers, "was a pure product of America." That those two statements are absolutely true and related to one another is part of the strength of this ferocious takedown. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

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