Zero Ri$k by Simon Hayes – Book Review

Zero Ri$k by Simon Hayes – Book Review

Zero Risk by Simon Hayes

Zero Ri$k

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23 December 2024… Rob Tanner should have been enjoying a rare day off from his life-consuming work as Chief Operating Officer at one of the country’s largest banks. But a panicked phone call from a senior colleague forces him to put his Christmas plans on ice: more than a thousand of the bank’s accounts have seen their balances increased by a factor of ten. Exactly ten. Through the inexplicably simple addition of an extra zero. And when the inflated balances prove to be neither early Christmas gifts, nor a botched computer system upgrade, but the most sophisticated cyber attack in history, Tanner finds himself in the eye of a “Black Swan’ storm no one predicted, but anyone could have anticipated.

Tanner enlists the help of brilliant American cyber security expert Ashley Markham, but the attacks only worsen: bank balances rise remorselessly and spread to all the nation’s banks. The only clues to the hacker’s intentions are cryptic daily emails, centred on Hieronymus Bosch’s medieval representation of the seven deadly sins―and packed with colourful artistic and cultural references―taunting Tanner and the newly incumbent Prime Minister, James Allen.

With financial markets―and the very world as he knows it―on the brink of collapse, Tanner races against the clock to decode not just the bizarre emails but their deeper meaning, and the implications for who he can really trust. All the while, his former boss “The Toad” is seeking revenge… and answers of his own.

This enthralling, multi-layered debut follows the story of a disillusioned banker facing unthinkable financial Armageddon, where money has no value, stock and bond prices are meaningless, and the economy is destroyed. Can Tanner unravel the mystery of the hacker’s obsession with Bosch, sin and retribution before modern society returns to the dark ages?

Review by Stacey

Zero Ri$k by Simon Hayes is a fascinating financial and political thriller set slightly in the future, beginning in December 2024. The story begins with a major crisis at London’s National Bank. 1,001 accounts have mysteriously increased tenfold. The bank’s Chief Operating Officer, Rob Tanner, and his team struggle to identify the cause. With no indication of an IT glitch, they suspect a cyber attack, a theory the CEO dismisses, leading to Rob’s dismissal when he tries to involve the board.

The situation quickly escalates as more banks come under attack and cryptic emails start to surface. Despite his ousting, Rob remains committed to saving the UK economy from potential collapse and enlists help to track down and stop the hackers.

The book opens with a prologue set in 2016, where the bank is warned about outdated IT systems and a potential backdoor for hackers. Fast forward to 2024 and this very scenario unfolds. This mirrors real-life situations where companies often ignore risks, hoping for the best, only to face dire consequences. Unfortunately, for London’s National Bank and others, the risk becomes a reality.

The plot is engaging and exciting which, to be honest when you think about finances and politics they certainly don’t sound like they would be, however, Hayes’ expertise shines through, drawing readers into the plot without overwhelming them with technical jargon.

The book is fast-paced, aided by the short chapters, which keep the reader hooked. It is filled with twists and turns which evolves into an intriguing cat-and-mouse chase that keeps the suspense high. The motive behind the hackers’ actions and the mastermind behind the elaborate scheme are compelling mysteries that drive the story forward.

Zero Ri$k is a long book but it certainly doesn’t feel it. The characters are well-crafted and perfectly realistic. The plot is bang up-to-date and relevant. Overall, the book is edgy, dark, and intensely gripping which makes it a standout thriller.

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Simon Hayes

Simon Hayes

Simon Hayes is an award-winning former headhunter and investment banker. His finance career took him from his home city London, where he was a top-ranked securities analyst in the Institutional Investor and Extel surveys, to the US, Hong Kong and Japan. Search led Simon back to Tokyo, where he was recognised as the “Best Headhunting Executive” in Japan by Asiamoney then, as head of a leading London-based Financial Services practice, into the City’s most exclusive boardrooms.

He wrote Zero Risk, his first novel, whilst creating the rubriqs people skills system, and he spent much of 2023 in Zimbabwe on a major fraud case. Born and raised in West London, Simon was the first member of his family to attend university, graduating from Trinity Hall, Cambridge with a degree in Law.

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Zero Risk X Still 2

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