Thrillers about money?
July 4, 2011 4:35 PM   Subscribe

What are some examples of fictional thrillers that revolve around some kind of currency manipulation or other arcane financial shenanigans? Spy novels, murder mysteries, police procedurals, action movies, doesn't matter what genre. Not interested in crimes like bank robberies, just white collar crimes. (Non-fiction about these kinds of capers is also acceptable.) The more arcane and complicated the scheme, the better.
posted by empath to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Jeffrey Archer's got a lot of books and short stories of this variety. I don't know if they'd really be deemed mysteries, but they might fit the bill.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:41 PM on July 4, 2011

"The In-Laws", the original comedy with Peter Falk (not the remake), is nominally about stealing US currency engravers and selling them to dictators. (Hey, there's nothing but money in here!)

Some of the James Bond movies (Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever) were about saturating the market with such items in order to depress prices.
posted by Melismata at 4:44 PM on July 4, 2011

Does Office Space count?
posted by SMPA at 4:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Die Hard?

I still don't know what a "negotiable bearer bond" is.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 4:48 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Girl with the dragon tattoo centers on a white collar crime, although it also becomes (and the sequels are) about sexual violence.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:53 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Look at David Liss's novels. I think all of them might fit your criteria, at least some of them definitely will.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:54 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just finished reading Dance for the Dead, by Thomas Perry, and I still don't know what the hell happened. Its a murder mystery, and well, SPOILER, duh, the whole thing hinged on complicated financial manipulations, moving money around, buying stocks on speculation or something like that, and the bad-bad guy (not the bad guy, they are different) loses in the end via a transfer of ba-jillions of dollars to the US treasury or IRS where no one has a hope of ever getting it back.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:54 PM on July 4, 2011

Halting State, from Metafilter's own Charles Stross.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:54 PM on July 4, 2011

On non-fiction - you've read Michael Lewis, right?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:54 PM on July 4, 2011

No, wait, it was real estate loans, not stock speculation.
I think.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:55 PM on July 4, 2011

A bearer bond is just a bond where there is no registration or records: whoever holds the physical piece of paper (i.e. the bearer) owns the bond. They can be stolen just like dollar bills, except that they have really high amounts so it would be like a $10,000 dollar bill. Obviously, this is really inconvenient and ripe for abuse, so they stopped making them in 1982.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:55 PM on July 4, 2011

Die Hard?

The scheme in Die Hard 1 was just about stealing a bunch of things that were easily exchangeable for cash (i.e.: bearer bonds). The scheme in Die Hard 3, however, was about reducing (i.e.: blowing up) a good portion of the world's supply of gold in order to make the remaining gold more valuable. Pretty much the same idea as Goldfinger, except with radiation instead of explosions.

The Duke brothers in Trading Places attempt to exploit insider information (namely, an early look at a government report) to corner the frozen orange juice concentrate market.
posted by mhum at 4:57 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Michael Connelly novel Lost Light involves a bank robbery, but also some manipulation of the money afterwards.

The Lawrence Block novel The Devil Knows You're Dead involves money shenanigans as well, altho it is not a major part of the plot (and this isn't my favorite of Block's books, either).

Laura Lippman's Butcher Hill also involves this, but I can't say anymore without giving away part of the plot. Liza Cody's Gimme More is also about money cons and white color crimes.

And The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, to a certain degree.

I will try to think of some more. I like these kinda of questions.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 4:58 PM on July 4, 2011

Oh! You might also be interested in The Big Con.

And this pulpy older novel revolves around real estate scamming: The Girl with the Long Green Heart.. I like this book, but two friends I have recommended it to found the scam too arcane, and the characters a little flat,
posted by Ideal Impulse at 5:01 PM on July 4, 2011

Beverly Hills Cop, more bearer bonds
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:01 PM on July 4, 2011

Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor

I have the feeling there are good ones that will come to me later.
posted by Net Prophet at 5:01 PM on July 4, 2011

Dept of Honor by Tom Clancy involves the Japanese putting a virus in the US Stock Exchange software to cause an economic collapse.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:03 PM on July 4, 2011

Firewall by Henning Mankell
posted by Ideal Impulse at 5:04 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

John Le Carre's recent Our Kind of Traitor centers on a Russian mobster who launders money with the support of key (ostensibly legitimate) financial and political institutions.
posted by hhc5 at 5:05 PM on July 4, 2011

For nonfiction, check out 'Newton and the Counterfeiter.' Who knew that Sir Issac Newton had a career tracking down and stopping counterfeiters?

The Cuckoo's Egg is a true story about a sysadmin who notices a 75 cent accounting error and uncovers industrial espionage.

Not quite the same thing, something else you might be interested in is Tulipomania, the true story about how Tulip trading in the 1600's led to one of the first economic bubbles and crashes.
posted by Caravantea at 5:07 PM on July 4, 2011

Aronofsky's Pi is about an eccentric scientist who attempts, among other things, to game the stock market by harnessing the power of a groundbreaking new mathematical theory he developed.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:15 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Big Con. Fascinating.
From the glossary: A short con takes everything the mark as; a long con sends him home for more.
From the interviews: "In Galveston the marks were so thick you had to kick them out of the way."
posted by LonnieK at 5:16 PM on July 4, 2011

Rise of a Merchant Prince by Raymond E. Feist has commodity manipulation as a major plot point. It's right smack in the middle of Feist's Serpentwar Saga, which itself is a followup to the Riftwar books, so jumping in right there won't make much sense, I'm afraid, but it definitely fits the bill.

Can't say as I recommend the book as such, but if you like your fantasy derivative, it's an otherwise-serviceable read.
posted by valkyryn at 5:16 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I came here to say what valkyryn did, including the review.
posted by Nothing at 5:19 PM on July 4, 2011

There's all kinds of stuff about currency, markets and the invention of various of their implementations in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy. But they're huge books and I can't quite give specific directions...

Charlie Stross' "Family Trade" books, which I have only just learned about, might fit the bill.

"Money" by Martin Amis sort of fits, but it's a little spoilery to say so.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:26 PM on July 4, 2011

The Bank, an Australian movie from 2001.

Also, Economics Goes To The Movies.
posted by bq at 5:26 PM on July 4, 2011

non fiction:
* Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
* When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management (not many shenanigans though)
* Guns and traders, which by the way kind of predicted that securitization would end up in tears
seconding more or less all M. Lewis articles and books
posted by 3mendo at 5:31 PM on July 4, 2011

Paul Erdman's Zero Coupon is white-collar shenanigans from beginning to end. Erdman was the real deal; he wrote his first novel (The Billion Dollar Sure Thing) while awaiting trial in Switzerland for fraud after a bank failure. He was acquitted.
posted by drdanger at 5:36 PM on July 4, 2011

For something a little different, David Liss's The Coffee Trader, set in 17th century Amsterdam. Not great literature, but engaging and fun. Looks like he has other books involving financial crookedness, too.
posted by Corvid at 5:41 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some obvious ones I don't see above: "Wall Street", "Rogue Trader", "Other People's Money", "Boiler Room".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:41 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Entrapment involves screwing an insurance company for 8 billion, by bumfuzzling a weird 10-15 second glitch/window right at the turn of the millenium.
posted by timsteil at 5:58 PM on July 4, 2011

Seconding David Liss.

Katherine Neville's A Calculated Risk is all about that, and the book is readable, though perhaps not very good. Still, it's fun and all about financial manipulation schemes.
posted by jeather at 6:00 PM on July 4, 2011

A bit off in left field, but Spice and Wolf is a vaguely picaresque fantasy anime with a major currency-manipulation subplot. (And it has the apparently obligatory indigestible infodump-lumps on the subject.)
posted by hattifattener at 6:08 PM on July 4, 2011

The Company by Robert Littell fits the bill, or parts of it do, anyway.
posted by indubitable at 6:37 PM on July 4, 2011

David Liss is definitely your man. His first novel, A Conspiracy of Paper, is about the ultimate financial shenanigans (in the opinion of some of the book's characters), the establishment of the London stock exchange. I've read a bunch of his books and they all have a financial scam theme, but this one's my favorite. Surprisingly funny for the topic, too.
posted by Quietgal at 7:15 PM on July 4, 2011

Two of the plot threads in Stephenson's Baroque Cycle books involve freakiness with gold isotopes and the invention of modern banking.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:22 PM on July 4, 2011

This is part of the plot of The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker, but it's not criminal activity so much as a scheme to advance one empire over others in a pseudo-classical fantasy world.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:49 PM on July 4, 2011

Noble house by james clavell
posted by drethelin at 8:02 PM on July 4, 2011

The film, 'To Live and Die in L.A.' involves counterfeit money, and has a great scene of pre-digital counterfeiting.

Peter Fonda's character in the film, 'The Limey' is a money launderer. There's a great scene (I can't find a link, but it immediately follows this exchange) in which the detective explains why he chases money launderers.

In the film, 'The Rollover', an Arab oil organization devises a plan to wreck the world economy in order to cause anarchy and chaos.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:32 PM on July 4, 2011

Boiler Room is about a pump and dump stock scheme.

Gambling/con movies would count in a way... The Sting, 21, etc.
posted by Jahaza at 8:37 PM on July 4, 2011

The Buck Passes Flynn by Gregory Mcdonald is lighthearted detective novel from the early eighties. Huge sums of cash are appearing without explanation on every doorstep in assorted American small towns. Local economies are thrown into chaos, and the national economy will follow suit... unless Inspector Flynn can track down the source of the money and catch the criminal.
posted by Lirp at 8:48 PM on July 4, 2011

The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer was the first book I thought of.
The Zero Game, also by Brad Meltzer, would work too. (It's a little more about politics than money but it is excellent)
posted by SisterHavana at 9:12 PM on July 4, 2011

This is barely within your specifications, but on the other hand, it's short: If you can find a copy of "No Comebacks" by Frederick Forsyth, there is a short story in the collection called "A Careful Man," which hinges around a wealthy man (who discovers he is dying) arranging his financial affairs to his satisfaction.

(I should note the entire collection is pretty good, all the way around, but that's the only story with a financial twist.)
posted by maxwelton at 12:42 AM on July 5, 2011

This Is Not A Game, by Walter Jon Williams: a near-future technothriller revolving around currency manipulations. (There's a sequel, Deep State, but it's more of a straight spy story, with no financial shenanigans.)

Another vote for David Liss; the one I've read is The Whiskey Rebels, and I keep meaning to get round to his others.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:32 AM on July 5, 2011

Terry Pratchett's Making Money is a delightful disc world novel about the invention of currency.
posted by ccoryell at 5:35 AM on July 5, 2011

Response by poster: Well, one thing I have learned in this thread is that at least 2 other people already had basically the exact same idea for the story I was writing :(
posted by empath at 7:37 AM on July 5, 2011

Terry Pratchett's Making Money is a delightful disc world novel about the invention of currency.

The book before it is even closer, Going Postal is about technocratic white collar crime in a fantasy universe and it starts up the Von Lipwig character who goes on to Making Money.
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 AM on July 5, 2011

"The Nude Bomb", the Get Smart movie, was about an evil man who invented a bomb that would destroy all clothing. Because that way, everyone would be required to purchase new clothing from him.
posted by Melismata at 11:53 AM on July 5, 2011

Emma Lathen's novels are set in the financial world and I remember enjoying them, but it's been years since I've read them. If you're open to TV, Hustle might fit.
posted by rjs at 1:22 PM on July 5, 2011

William Gibson's most recent novel, Zero History, features an extremely arcane and complicated financial subplot that leads, unexpectedly, to the novel's surprising conclusion.
posted by digitalprimate at 2:43 PM on July 5, 2011

The Digital Effect by Steve Perry
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:46 PM on July 5, 2011

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