A Book Review, By Andrew Kureth, Senior Editor, Geopolitical Intelligence Services (Vaduz, Liechtenstein)
Hostile takeovers, mergers and acquisitions, office technology security, accounting practices and business law might sound like a course load for an MBA, but John Lynch, a new American author based in Poland, has made them the backbone of his debut thriller, The Ark – to considerable success.
Lynch manages to keep these subjects simple, even making them exciting, all while weaving them into a story of international intrigue that whisks the reader from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the shadows of the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine, via New York, Philadelphia, Bucharest, Kiev and most of all, Poland.
The plot of The Ark follows Truman Chase, an American with Polish roots who moves back to the old country to save the family clothing business in Krakow. Within 10 years, he has built a successful fashion company poised to take Europe by storm.
Unfortunately, his firm TruCo has taken on a loan from the Ark – the novel’s namesake – an unscrupulous hedge fund led by playboy businessman Fernando Tomasi. As Tomasi’s poor investment decisions threaten to take down the fund, he becomes increasingly desperate, going to any lengths to squeeze as much as he can out of the last profitable debtor he has left – TruCo.
Tomasi’s shady dealings finally catch the attention of American authorities, and in particular, Faith Osborne, a rising FBI agent with a specialty in financial crimes. The multilingual, brave and brilliant Osborne chases Tomasi across the world as his efforts to enrich himself become more frantic and underhanded.
The Ark is based on Lynch’s own experiences as an entrepreneur in Poland, and his intimate familiarity with the struggles of businesspeople in the region is evident in the detail and lucidity with which he writes about them.
Readers will find themselves cheering for the small, innovative underdog against its larger European competitors and groaning at the sluggishness and inefficiency of the Polish judicial system. Can the company’s workers be trusted? Will they remain loyal to their foreigner boss, even as the business’s fortunes hit rock bottom?
Ultimately, The Ark is the story of how the greed and ambition of others threaten to destroy years of hard work, just as those efforts teeter on the cusp of success – and how “keeping the faith” in oneself and one’s values can help overcome any obstacle.
To achieve his dramatic, fast-paced narrative, Lynch does lean on cliches that some readers might find off-putting. Nearly every Ukrainian we meet is corrupt, and most Latin Americans outspoken and aggressive. There is a variety of character in the Poles portrayed, but most in Chase’s company support their brave American leader. And though the book is replete with strong women, we do not meet a single female entrepreneur outside of perhaps Chase’s fiancée Karolina, who we are told “runs her own design studio.”
It is likely that readers will overlook these minor foibles in this first-time author’s gripping novel, as the plot’s action races forward and they are drawn more and more toward rooting for Chase, whose dreams hang in the balance until the very last page. In his story of courage and perseverance, Lynch’s belief in human decency and virtue shine through.
Andrew Kureth is a Warsaw-based writer, editor and journalist originally from the U.S. He is currently Senior Editor at Geopolitical Intelligence Services. Andrew was formerly editor-in-chief of Warsaw Business Journal and editor at Poland Today. He graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio.
Andrew Kureth, Senior Editor
Geopolitical Intelligence Services (Vaduz, Liechtenstein)