As a chillingly accurate thriller, Taking Stock really hits the mark. An obscene amount of money makes an excellent motive for killing anyone who gets in the way, even when that money is tied up in the computer systems of a stock company. Author C.J. West juggles several very different characters while setting up an all-consuming tale of greed and manipulation, complete with the twists and turns needed to make a good thriller.
Erica Fletcher unwittingly finds herself in the center of the embezzling scheme. Erica is driven and ambitious, taking her work very seriously, always pushing herself. Emotionally, she is a complete wreck, but she keeps herself tightly reigned in - until pushed. Gregg is the smart farm-boy-turned-stock agent and compassionate guy who works downstairs, and who has a thing for the coolly remote “doesn’t need anything from anyone” girl upstairs.
Circumstances at work - and a sweetly interfering roommate- throw them together, both personally and professionally. They’ll need the mutual support, because someone they both know is setting the scene to use Erica as a scapegoat. As it becomes apparent that there is a problem with the money in their company, it also becomes obvious that all evidence points to Erica as the thief.
There are excellent dialogues between the masterminds and surprisingly good development, even with them. The front man is being used, but his own greed and ego makes him believe that he’ll escape unscathed in the end. All of the fundamental players are somewhat two-dimensional, embodying one or two main characteristics, but it works reasonably well. They are all thoroughly engaging.
C.J. West makes a staggering writing choice about halfway through the book that really sets Taking Stock apart from others of its kind. It is refreshing to see a book not follow conventional guidelines while still maintaining the level of intensity that one might expect of a thriller.
West nails the inner struggles and strength of a woman who has grown up with the past looking over her shoulder. Erica comes from the home of an abusive father; it has shaped her life and drives her ambitions. The emotional upset and squirming she feels when people probe too deeply is dead-on. He captures the flight instinct in Erica exceedingly well. More, he combines it perfectly with the stubborn need to rise above it. The set up of her side of the story in Taking Stock is all too real, and uncomfortably insightful.
However, the emotional journey she is forced to embark on is not as credible. It is difficult to find Erica’s miraculous emotional healing to be completely believable. It’s more than a little fluffy and unreasonable that our unwilling heroine’s past feelings and fears entirely evaporate with the resolution of the work-related troubles.
Other than that one nit-pick, the story exhibits good, authentic writing. The language is intelligent, and the thriller itself is well thought out, the details all pointing to one conclusion. Taking Stock is a good, solid read that satisfies.