The action kicks off when foreign exchange trader Bryan LeBlanc decides that there is no reason to settle for his big salary when he can make an even bigger score skimming money from his clients’ accounts. When the theft is discovered, his boss, Seo-yun Kim, has to track Bryan down but keep the case quiet so that the firm’s clients aren’t alarmed. So she and colleague Neal Nathanson, director of special collections, whose job typically involves 'tracking down investors who’d overreached, taken bad bets, had their margins called, and then skipped out,' head south to find LeBlanc and the $17 million he stole ... Blown is well-plotted, with Smith mixing up the allegiances of the various characters so it’s never quite clear where their loyalties lie. And he deftly sketches their back stories.
Smith’s growing collection of novels, most bearing one word titles, have been widely praised for their unpredictable, pop-culture-driven story lines and barbed black humor. True to form, his latest farcical escapade pokes fun at Wall Street in a tale about a financial whiz. Although his gig at a foreign exchange desk puts big bucks in both his clients’ pockets and his own, Bryan LeBlanc finds rubbing elbows with greedy bankers distasteful enough to bilk them of a cool $17-million, enough embezzled money to set himself free from the rat race and sail off on a private yacht to the Caribbean ... Smith turns in another compulsively readable blend of satire, crime fiction motifs, and the occasional quirky, violent interlude in a tale that will satisfy his current fans and attract new ones.
There’s plenty of entertaining relish for detail in this fast-paced crime novel about theft and skullduggery. But along the way you begin to realize that this is more than a whodunnit. Blown is also a narrative about moral values and their repudiation. Absconding with a large sum of money is just the book’s hook. It goes onto pose some elemental questions. For example, would an ordinary individual commit a murder if it meant he or she could enrich themselves — and never be caught? ... Blown is engrossing; this is a page turner in the best sense of the term. Mark Haskell Smith, who has written novels, non-fiction books, and screenplays and teaches at University of California, Riverside, has done an admirable job of creating a short mystery novel that is not only populated by a half-dozen memorable figures, but stands as a morality play. This funny ethical fable suggests that our own selves may be the greatest mystery of all.