Michael Sears launches a bold action-packed series that delves into ambition, redemption, morality and the changing landscape of Queens, N.Y., in Tower of Babel. Shamus winner Sears puts aside his intriguing series about disgraced Wall Street trader Jason Stafford (Long Way Down) for a financial thriller with an equally compelling anti-hero.
Former attorney Ted Molloy scrapes by as a foreclosure profiteer, seeking out those Queens commercial properties that sold for more than demanded, often resulting in "surplus money." If those funds aren't claimed, they are returned to the government. For a substantial fee, Ted finds those situations, getting the owner at least some of their money. It's a shady business, bordering on the immoral, but not illegal. He stays away from "big" surplus--more money, more problems. He resists a potentially million-dollar property suggested by his research partner, Richie Rubiano, who is murdered days later. Richie's volatile widow, Cheryl, demands Ted find the killer--and go after the money. The investigation tangles Ted up with a massive real estate deal, the Russian mafia and cutthroat attorney Jacqueline Clavette, the woman now married to his ex-wife, Jill.
Sears keeps Tower of Babel's plot tight, making the complicated financial shenanigans understandable and the characters realistic. The likable Ted desperately needs redemption, though he's not quite sure how to achieve that, nor if he is worthy. Queens's changing landscape, with its "stew of cultures," variety of languages and "disparate communities," make it a modern Tower of Babel, almost unrecognizable to long-time residents like Ted. His favorite restaurant--a neighborhood fixture--now serves a popular dim sum brunch and a great cheeseburger. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer