The Embezzler centers on one of the most significant, if least understood, episodes in recent American history, the consequence of which was federal control of the stock market. Perhaps fittingly, the title character Guy Prime is the first to tell his side of the story, followed in turn by his former friend Reginald (Rex) Geer and finally by Angelica, Guy’s ex-wife, currently married to Rex. Guy’s memoir, purportedly written in 1960 for circulation among his relatives after his death, credibly evokes the atmosphere of the Depression and the New Deal, double occasions of his crime and subsequent imprisonment. Now living in self-imposed exile in Panama, Guy seeks to explain, and in part, to justify, his own highly visible role in the scandals that led to federal control of the American stock market. By way of background, he evokes his childhood and adolescence, culminating in his decisive friendship with Rex Geer at Harvard. Indeed, until the crisis provoked during the 1930’s by Guy’s ruthless speculations, the two men have usefully complemented each other, each supplying what the other lacked. Rex, the son of a New England parson, supplies the sybaritic Guy with much-needed stability; Guy, meanwhile, provides his straitlaced friend with the rudimentary social graces needed for success in his chosen field of banking. It is Guy, moreover, who generously uses his own connections to provide Rex with a scholarship and later with a job. Guy, temperamentally unsuited to banking, accepts his father’s help in starting a brokerage house; Rex, meanwhile, remains with the bank, setting the stage for the confrontations that eventually follow.
Even with the help of multiple viewpoints, it is difficult to ascertain precisely to what extent Guy Prime’s defalcations were motivated by his knowledge of Rex Geer’s romantic involvement, starting in 1933, with Guy’s wife, Angelica. In any event, Guy had...
(The entire section is 786 words.)