Jeff Jensen
September 12, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Fritz Brubaker has it all. A sexy, successful lawyer wife. (She’s cheating on him.) Intelligent, healthy children. (They’re teenagers — he’s an embarrassment to them.) A life of conspicuous consumption. (Which, the more he thinks about it, seems kinda empty…) So when he takes the fall for an insider-trading scandal that bankrupts his company, Fritz should be cursing God. Instead, he’s born again. A densely plotted, often hilarious attempt at the Great American Post-Enron Novel, Value is a bold departure for thriller writer Willett (”The Betrayal”): It’s ambitious, energetic, and blind to its own failings. The model is ”The Bonfire of the Vanities,” but some of the satire isn’t as clever as Willett thinks, and the denouement’s sentimentality feels like a pulled punch. If Willett wants to be the next Tom Wolfe, he’ll have to grow sharper teeth. B

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