Moggach's theme here, as in the superb Tulip Fever, is the conflict between greed and love. Natalie is a pretty, ambitious girl working for Nu-Line telecommunications and fed up with her grotty life and dull boyfriend. She yearns for money, and one day gets the idea for a very simple fraud: all she has to do is find a husband with the right initials, and she can cash the cheques mistakenly made out in payment to the company to her own name. The consequences of her fraud ripple out, disastrously.
Less richly satisfying than Tulip Fever, this may disappoint those who wanted another historical novel. Moggach is much better at depicting artists and lovers than she is at making very ordinary, slightly squalid people interesting, but carries your interest by the quality of her style and plotting.
Easy - but intelligent - reading, will try other novels by this writer. Not a cliched crime novel, not actually a 'crime novel' at all, more of a psychological study/study of the consequences of seemingly random actions.
It clearly illustrates the reality that one person's acts of of petty selfishness or greed can have a huge impact on other people. I disagree with the view that it is 'preachy' but, if it is, perhaps people should listen to its sermon.
I'm not sure this is a hugely memorable book, but it was certainly stimulating and enjoyable at the time, which is a great deal more than can be said for this year's Booker prize winner (in my humble opinion)!
Natalie is a bright, beautiful, thirty-two-year-old who wants more from life; her parents have more-or-less abandoned her; her boyfriend of three years has found someone else; her car has been broken into; the bills are piling up and she is stuck in a boring, dead-end job in the accounts department of Nu-Line Telecommunications. Seriously fed-up, extremely broke and longing for some excitement in her life, Natalie sees a chance to make some money for herself when she notices that a large number of customers pay with cheques incorrectly made out to N.T instead of the company's full name. If only her surname began with the letter T, Natalie thinks, she could bank the cheques in her account and, if she's careful, no one need be any the wiser. She just needs to find someone with the right surname. After several problematic (and somewhat amusing) false starts, Natalie meets Colin Taylor, a kind, naive gas board employee, who comes to Natalie's flat to disconnect her after the non-payment of a final demand. And so starts Natalie's deception; she will fool Colin into marrying her, and once she is Natalie Taylor, her plan can be set in motion. After all, she tells herself, the company can afford the loss and no one will get hurt - but Natalie is wrong; people do get hurt and, due to Natalie's deception, more than one person loses a whole lot more than just their money. (No spoilers - we learn most of this early on in the novel).
Fast-paced, blackly comic in some places and tragically sad in others, this novel, which uses the chaos theory to good effect, makes for engrossing and entertaining reading. You will, however, need to suspend your disbelief at times - for instance, would it not have been easier for Natalie to have changed her surname by deed poll than to fool some poor, unsuspecting man into marriage? Would enough people (even ten years ago when this book was first published) have paid their bills by incorrectly completed cheques, to have made the risk worthwhile? How many very large companies have accounts departments where letters are opened and processed manually and by one person? However, if you put those questions to one side, you may find yourself turning the pages rather quickly as you become caught up in Natalie's unusual and unsettling story, keen to discover how far she is prepared to go in her deception and how long it will be before her crime is discovered - and what about poor old Colin?
on 27 September 2011
Having obtained the book at random as part of a book swap (I thought the summary sounded interesting) I found it to be a gripping read. The author's style is involving and often funny, and even though the story is set in fairly dull and mundane surroundings, events move along at a cracking pace and you can't wait to see how it turns out. The story is set in a part of the world that I know from travelling on business myself, and the characters in the story are realistic and typical of those you find in offices all over the country.
If I had one beef about the story, it would be about the nature of the fraud which was outdated even when the book was written. In an age of mechanisation, even fairly small companies can afford machines to open their mail, and this was true even in 2002, when the story is set. If Nu-Line Commuications is supposed to be a rival to BT, they are hardly going to employ girls to process cheques in the manner described because machines can slice open envelopes, remove the contents and scan the giro barcodes in a fraction of the time it takes a human, at a fraction of the cost and with little risk of fraud. This is why people who pay by cheque are told never to use paper clips or staples, because they get wedged in the processing machines. And how many people really pay their phone bills by cheque? Even in 2002 I was paying my phone bill by Direct Debit. I have heard of fairly elaborate cheque frauds similar to this, but these were committed in the past by Bank staff with an intimate knowledge of how cheque processing works and with the advent of increased security, have not been possible to even contemplate for at least 10-15 years. It was rather inevitable to my mind that Natalie was going to get found out. Where the story gets interesting is where it examines the consequences of her fraud and those affected by it, and that is where "Final Demand" really comes into its own.
Leaving all this aside, this is an immmensly satisfying book, and it has been a long time since I have laughed so much - Natalie has a lot of problems in her life, and it will be very few who won't indentify with the issues which drive her to a life of crime in the first place.
on 4 August 2008
Reading the first sentence I wasn't sure I was going to like this, but it turned out to be a real page turner and a thriller.
Set in Leeds and the north-west, Natalie, working in accounts has a plan to extend her income. It involves marriage to a man with a surname beginning with T. That's the start of the plan. Little does she know the consquences and the effect on people's lives, particularly Chloe and her family.
I was quickly hooked and to be honest thought it very believable and utterly logical (except toward the end when I thought it went slightly in the direction of implausability). Natalie managed to hoodwink many and gained.
I thought this was an interesting psychological study as well - how people who appear strong are actually vulnerable, and how the past affects actions in the future. I think Natalie was a confused and needy individual, and didn't really consider what she was doing.
I have bought another book by Moggach on the back of reading this. I didn't buy Tulip Fever (not a huge fan of historical dramas) but instead chose something less well known. Would definitely recommend Final Demand - good holiday or commute read or indeed a good weekend read (which is how quickly I read it).
on 28 January 2013
....so I thought I'd review it, as I'm always recommending it to people!
The plot is excellent and unusual - I won't start explaining it because you can read it in the blurb. I loved the way that Ms Moggach wound two stories together so cleverly, making the reader really care about the family to whom the disaster happens, before the reason is revealed. I love stories that jump from one plot thread to another, and this does it smoothly and so well.
Natalie Taylor is an unusual heroine, too; she's not terribly likeable on paper, but I found myself liking her all the same. I wanted to weep for poor Colin. The book is very 'current' - I know it was written over ten years ago, now, but it still has that feel to it.
One thing I LOVED about it is the way in which, near the beginning, there are a few little passages showing how Natalie's fradulent actions affected other people's lives, people she would never know about. It really made me think about how the things we do have such an effect on the world as a whole, not just our own lives, even if we don't realise it at the time.
A terrific book, an 'easy read' but also very clever. Highly recommended.
on 20 February 2008
I found this book in a secondhand book shop and took it on holiday - I simply could not put it down until I had finished it! The main character of the novel, Natalie, starts to 'scam' money out of her employers with little thought for the 'ripples' her actions cause to the unwitting 'victims' of her scam, including her husband who she only marries to get a name - this book explores these repercussions superbly. I then passed the book on to several members of my reading group, all of whom sang its praises as well. We all feel sure that it would make an excellent TV mini-series.
Working in a humdrum job for a telecommunications company, Natalie's mind turns to thoughts of fraud. If only she had the same initials as the firm for which she works, just a tiny adaptation could be made and she could then deposit it's incoming cheques in back accounts of her own. She already has the N (for Natalie). Now she just needs to marry a man whose surname begins with T. Enter the gentle, besotted and unsuspecting Colin.
So far, so good. But here, the ripple effect begins, and a parallel story emerges of another family, and a terrible tragedy; one which would never have happened had it not been for Natalie's new life of crime.
The two stories - of Natalie, and of the family which is struck by tragedy - are told alternately, and each is equally engrossing. While I found the novel a little slow to start off with, it certainly gained pace towards the end. The ending itself was surprisingly abrupt, but on the whole, I enjoyed this novel. It is by no means one of the author's best, but well worth reading. Recommended.
on 5 August 2006
I sat down one Saturday monring and read Final Demand cover to cover in one sitting, pausing only to make a cup of tea. I found it completely gripping.
Natalie is an accounts clerk who wants to escape from her dull life. Having her car stereo stolen one night sparks off a chain of events that she hopes will lead to a brighter, more exciting future. A money-making scam is launched and the story really gathers pace as she plunges headlong into a web of lies and deceit to achieve her goal. The plot in engrossing and I felt like shouting at Natalie to stop.
In the end, she goes too far with tragic consequences far more wide reaching than she could have possibly imagined. This is a rollercoaster of a read.
on 5 January 2015
An absorbing read. It's easy to put oneself in Natalie's shoes, and although you know her fraudulent activities are completely immoral, you can feel her frustration in an unfair world where the rich appear to have an easier life. She does have a sensitive side to her personality which sometimes allows her to get under your skin so you don't wish any harm on her. I love the way Moggach writes, it has an edge,which is highly addictive and leaves you waiting impatiently for her next novel.