Daar komen de vliegen
Page-turner describing the tragedy of a charismatic fraudster
There Come the Flies tells the story of Jerry Kirschenbaum, a New York tycoon who invests millions for a select group of people. Even after the start of the financial crisis, he manages to guarantee their profits. His services are particularly popular among the prominent Jewish population of the city.
Jerry, a fictionalized Bernie Madoff, is a devoted father and husband. He deeply loves his spoilt wife Ruth, who has found her vocation in the buying of art and in charitable work. They have a son together, forty-year-old Andy who has Down’s syndrome. Their life is otherwise characterized by those luxury problems that afflict the super-rich, such as cleaners who cut corners. Apart from his family, Jerry gets most pleasure from automatons, antique wind-up robots that he buys at auctions.
Slowly cracks appear in this American Dream. As the financial crisis worsens, more and more clients ask Jerry for their money back. Charming as ever, he manages to persuade most of them to leave their capital with him, and by making numerous transfers of funds he succeeds in robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is the start of sleepless nights, a tic in his left eyelid, and an addiction to the sedative lorazepam. Then a hyperintelligent Greek called Yanakis discovers that Jerry’s company is based not on a sophisticated investment strategy but on a ponzi scheme. Like a wasp, Yanakis pursues Jerry, who eventually confesses the truth to Ruth. She organizes a joint suicide, which fails. Depressed, Jerry ends up in jail. His only comfort is his first automaton, a bird that reminds him of happier times, which suddenly breaks.
The story is told from the perspective of the central character and a number of secondary figures such as Eduardo, Jerry’s chauffeur, and Monica, Andy’s carer, as well as several businesspeople. The author elegantly manipulates the reader. The book begins with a description of a bat mitzvah with elephant, an event that is experienced as vulgar by Jerry and Ruth. The descriptions of their own exorbitant life that follow, with bottles of Pétrus costing 15,000 dollars and bespoke suits at 50,000 dollars, almost come as a surprise.
With consummate skill the author manages to evoke sympathy for Jerry, who has ruthlessly cheated his business contacts out of billions of dollars, and for Ruth, who after Jerry’s fall from grace cannot imagine living on two and a half million. The book is gripping precisely because of the sympathy the reader feels for the person behind the white-collar criminal. Reading There Come the Flies is a nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience.