Bert Berger


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.©2019 ajs Bert Berger

This book is a work of fiction, names. characters, places coporate names and incidents are either the product of the authors imagination or are or used ficticiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons and coporate units, invividuals, living or death, existing or disolved are entirely coincidental.

Asset Strippers
To be published
ISBN-13 -
978-1-5374-9490-6/ 9781537494906
ISBN-10: 1-5374-9490-2 / 1537494902
FICTION / Thriller / Suspense

Summary of Story

Maximilian de Beaulieu d'Appremont is the owner and CEO of a large international conglomerate in the process of acquiring an almost bankrupt American subsidiary of a family owned European environmental company. As he prepares in his Chateau in Caen, in Normandie, France, for a visit to the USA in July 2010, a gruesome murder occurs in his large estate garden when a former, now retired employee of his family, is decapitated and nailed to a tree. An investigation by some secret services opened an array of connections to events in the past when Maximilian's Uncle Charles, was a diplomat working in Asia and Africa. After leaving the services, Uncle Charles had managed the family's African ventures. He had died in an air crash in December 1995.

The police and secret services cannot produce any links between the death, and various other deaths of employees and the family.

Visiting the Birmingham, Alabama, the location of the subsidiary to finalize the acquisition Maximilian meets Linda Porter, an odd mix of a wealthy, highly intelligent and well-educated history graduate, working as the CEO's assistant. Through her, confirmed later by some senior managers, Maximilian finds out that there has been a scheme of massive fraud going on in the company for years. His New York Banker also informs Maxi that a shady money launderer makes inquiries about Maximilian and his family. The originator of these inquiries is a nasty character, a mercenary, a former South African military officer, and a secret service member. He is the prime suspect in the killings of former employees of Maximilian's family enterprise.

Maximilian's due diligence investigation into the Birmingham company is not liked by the group that defrauds the company. They repeatedly threaten Maximilian and injure the current CEO, and make an assassination attempt in the course of which Linda Porter is shot. She survives the shooting but almost dies from being shot by someone using a contaminated bullet. A joint effort by the FBI and the in-house security finally bring about the arrest of the people who defrauded the company for years.

Maximilian is forced to lay off employees before he can take over the company for a nominal price and a large payment from the seller for finishing all the open projects that are in dispute. Another victim ending up with a concussion in a hospital is the consequence of an employee meeting with the management that had gone out of hand.

The investigation of the money launderer is finally stopped by an anonymous threat to expose his business. At the same time, Maximilian finds out that the pension fund of the company he is taking over is administered by a local investment company which is now owned by the financial manipulator, Mark Ramaloh.

Maximilian decides to purchase a house in Redmont, an older upper-income area of Birmingham. The realtor tells him that the former owner, a well to do lawyer, hanged himself almost five years ago and that the house had been empty since then. Maximilian wants to find out what the problem with the lawyer was, using the junior female analyst, Barbara, in the company who discovers some links the lawyer had as a military officer during the Vietnam War. There are also indications that the lawyer's death was not suicide but might have been a secret killing by people who want to remain anonymous.

The visit of a long-term Russian friend to Maximilian's mother and his aunt Natalie in their Geneva Chateau enlightens Maximilian further about the past career and character of Mark Ramaloh the money launderer. Some further knowledge on the origins of the killings and their connection to the past of Uncle Charles also become evident.

When Maximilian is back in Birmingham, another attempt at Linda's life at the hospital leaves two people dead and shows that there are other people than the ones who had been linked to the fraud, disliking Maximilian's purchase of the Birmingham company.

The presumed source of the killing of Maximilian's former employees is suddenly found dead. He and his girlfriend have been murdered in their villa in the South of France. The cause of their death was identical to that of Maximilian's former employees: Decapitations and being nailed to the floor.

Close to the end of the year, the Birmingham company becomes the propriety of Maximilian, and he is finally able to integrate it into his conglomerate. As a result of common interests, Maximilian starts to build up a close financial and business relationship with the former money launderer, Mark Ramaloh when they form together a successful leasing venture.

Most of the first year after the acquisition is used to clean up the old projects, expand their own sales and also to transfer technology to other parts of Maximilian's empire.

At the beginning of August in 2012 Maximilian and Linda prepare themselves to go to a board meeting to Geneva. When they leave their home in Redmont a massive bomb in Maximilian's car parked outside his house severely injures him leaving him with disfigured and in need for a long and slow recovery with multiple requirements for plastic surgery. His security people find that Maximilian had either overlooked or discarded some warning e-mails from a source that purports to be a band of anti-globalists. An extensive investigation by Maximilian's security group does not find the originators of the emails. A few months after the assassination attempt and shortly after the second course of plastic surgery at the local hospital another attempt on Maximilian's life is made by three people. Only luck and the quick reaction of Linda who happened to be in Maximilian's hospital room save his life. One of the assailants is injured by Linda while the other one is shot dead by a hospital security guard.

Maximilian survives without any injury, but the renewed attempt to assassinate Maximilian makes Linda follow the recommendation of Maximilian's security people to transport him secretly to the Chateau in Geneva where he could recover from his surgery in peace.

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©2019ajs 1013 - 091119

Kirkus Review



Bert Berger manuscript (692 pp.)


An asset stripper’s life becomes complicated by the murders of people linked to his family and various threats to the American company he plans to acquire in this debut thriller.

Maximilian "Maxi" de Beaulieu d’Appremont isn’t even aware of the corpse on his property until authorities arrive at his French château. The decapitated body may belong to Chris Ward, from whom Maxi had just received a cryptic note requesting his help. Ward had worked for the Beaulieu family company in Africa more than a decade ago, as had Michael Holcomb, another recent murder victim who, at the time of his demise, had Maxi’s address in his briefcase. It seems a man named Vincent Kaine has launched an inquiry into Maxi, believing he knows the location of hidden money Kaine and others collected illicitly. As this connects to Maxi’s dead Uncle Charles, he peruses his relative’s extensive diaries while looking for information on Mark Ramaloh, the man now investigating him. At the same time, Maxi is in the process of purchasing RTG Environmental Engineering Inc., an Alabama company on the verge of bankruptcy. His visit to the company in Birmingham is met with unveiled animosity from employees. They’re upset about a European buying RTGEE but may also be aware that Maxi suspects ongoing fraud within the company. Maxi befriends—and quickly falls for—whip-smart CEO assistant Linda Porter, one of the individuals who discovered the fraud. Soon sinister notes become physical intimidation, putting Maxi and Linda in danger from incensed workers or possibly someone from Charles’ past.

Berger’s lengthy narrative is predominantly dialogue that’s rife with dense backstory (characters tied to Charles or Kaine) and business dealings. The tale not only succeeds in shedding light on the practice of asset stripping, but also manages to demonstrate its value. Maxi’s purchase of RTGEE, for example, will lead to job losses in Birmingham but simultaneously save the parent company and secure thousands of positions in four other countries. Corresponding business transactions are always comprehensible, courtesy of the author’s sharp but meticulous prose ensuring clarity. Maxi is a curious protagonist. He’s an intelligent businessman who realistically isn’t trained in fisticuffs; when a crowbar-brandishing employee accosts him, he’s understandably shaken. In the same vein, Maxi does very little on his own. Pertinent details on Charles’ history, Ramaloh’s background, or RTGEE workers are gathered by other characters, who relay the information to Maxi. One of those players is Linda, and the romance she shares with Maxi is convincing, effectively heightening a later scene when threats in Birmingham instigate someone’s serious injury. Despite its bulk and a bevy of characters, the story doesn’t pile on mysteries, concentrating mostly on Maxi’s predicament in America. Regardless, the concurrent plots deepen as the novel progresses, including additional murders and anonymous menacing notes. With that in mind, the final act is a bit disappointing. There’s a surprising abundance of lingering questions near the end that Maxi seems content with leaving unresolved, even if readers won’t be.

A smart, somewhat passive protagonist leads a dark, measured tale set in the business world.

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