Read the first chapter
Manhattan, 2002: Mark Wallace has it all—he’s married to Claire, the love of his life; they have two bright, beautiful children, and his is a high-powered Wall Street job. Until one night while on a neighborhood errand by himself, his twelve-year-old son, Kyle, vanishes, brutally snatched off the streets of New York.
Seven years later, Kyle has never been found. The loss, guilt, and mystery surrounding their son’s disappearance have almost destroyed the Wallaces’ marriage, leaving their daughter alienated and distant. Mark has thrown himself into his work—he is now an energy markets consultant for a private hedge fund run by the father of a friend—and, though successful, is living on emotional autopilot.
Now, on the same day that a natural gas pipeline in remote western Russia is blown up by suspected terrorists, a new lead opens in Kyle’s case. When the very next day a colleague slips Mark classified information on Saudi oil production and then suddenly turns up dead, apparently a suicide, it remains for Mark, with the help of his technophile daughter and still-grieving wife, to find the sinister connections among everything that’s going on. Their personal struggle is equally compelling—three people who must once again learn how to be a family.
Politically savvy, emotionally complex, and frighteningly believable, The Garden of Betrayal is a tense and timely imagining of the casualties of recession-era Wall Street gaming and the backroom global oil wars, a riveting, compulsive read that will grip you from first page to last. It also places Lee Vance on the level of today’s best and best-selling thriller writers—Richard North Patterson, Christopher Reich—who not only thrill us but make us think.
Lee Vance is a graduate of Harvard Business School and a retired general partner of Goldman Sachs Group. He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.
From our Q&A with Vance
Q: You include a quote at the beginning of the book, “Judas, his betrayer, knew the place because Jesus and the disciples went there often. So Judas led the way to the garden…”, John 12:2—3. Why did you include that quote and how does this play into your title, The Garden of Betrayal?
A: The book is a thriller in the sense that there’s an underlying conspiracy to commit terrible crimes, and the protagonist is in constant jeopardy from seen and unseen forces, but it’s also very much a novel about relationships – about the forces that bind a family together, and the camaraderie of the workplace, and the unexpected links we sometimes form with people who randomly enter our lives. I included the quote and chose the title to reflect the fact that most terrible for the protagonist of all the dangers he faces is his betrayal by a friend.
The working title, by the way, was The Garden of Gethsemane, but a close acquaintance sagely observed that people not familiar with the bible would likely think it was a travel book, that people familiar with the bible would likely think it was a religious book, and that no one would be able to pronounce it. Which was a shame, because the name ‘Gethsemane’ literally translates as ‘oil-press place’ in ancient Hebrew, which tied nicely to the energy theme.
Q: In The Garden of Betrayal, protagonist Mark Wallace works for a hedge fund, advising a select group of investors on global energy pricing. At one point, he is given data on Saudi oil production. Why would this be valuable information for someone in Mark’s field?
A: No one knows how much oil there is in the world, or what percentage of that oil is recoverable. The only certainties are that the amount is finite, and that we’ll recover less than all of it. Hence long term – in twenty years, or fifty years, or a hundred years – we’re going to run out. The key questions are whether we’ll have time to make a smooth transition to an alternative source of energy, and what that source will be.
The Saudis are particularly important at this moment in history because they’re the one major oil producer thought to have proven, developed, excess capacity i.e. established wells that they aren’t currently pumping. But no one outside the Kingdom knows what that excess capacity is, nor do we know much about the rate at which their active fields are running down. There’s a school of thought that holds that the Saudis don’t actually have any excess capacity, and that their production is set to plunge in the near future. If so, the unexpected shortages would wreak massive global economic damage, spark famine, and almost certainly lead to further military conflict in the Middle East. Hence any information about Saudi capacity would be enormously valuable to a wide variety of business, political, and social institutions.
(…read the rest)