Human element of crisis explored

THE DARLINGS. By Cristina Alger. Pamela Dorman Books/Viking. 338 pages. $26.95.

Since the housing bubble burst, numerous works of nonfiction have been published examining the financial crisis, its players and its causes.

Cristina Alger has chosen a different method, using fiction to explore the human element behind the headlines.

Alger's first novel, “The Darlings,” takes its inspiration from the Bernie Madoff scandal as well as the events of the recent financial crisis.

The Darlings are members of New York society. Carter, the patriarch, heads a successful hedge fund. Early on, it becomes apparent that the situation at the fund is not as solid as it seems. The question is who will succeed? Will it be those seeking to cover up the truth or the team of journalists scrambling to uncover it?

Having worked as an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Company and as a corporate lawyer, Alger is on familiar ground. She presents the technical information in a way most readers will understand, although they may wish for a little less finance and a little more humanizing.

The story Alger has created is complicated, and one with good bones. But stories ultimately are about characters, and that's where Alger's novel falls short.

She seems so intent on being clever in her storytelling and teasing out just enough information that she neglects her characters.

It's not simply that the Darlings and those around them are flawed. They are vacant. Alger fails to give the reader anyone to root for in this financial thriller.