'Billion Dollar Whale' flying off the shelves — early reviews are positive

“A brilliant piece of journalism.”

Billion Dollar Whale by Wall Street Journal journalists Tom Wright and Bradley Hope (Photo: Kong Wai Yeng)

To prove just how popular and successful is Billion Dollar Whale — the definitive inside account of the 1MDB scandal authored by award-winning Wall Street Journal journalists Tom Wright and Bradley Hope — you only have to take a gander at our local bookstores. Chances are, you won’t find any copies lying around. That’s because they were all snatched up by eager readers the minute they hit the shelves.  

MPH Bookstores and Borders saw all copies of the book, as well as journalist Clare Rewcastle-Brown’s write-up on 1MDB, The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé, sold out on the first day. A Popular Bookstore in Selangor also sold 100 copies of Billion Dollar Whale and nearly all 200 copies of The Sarawak Report, turning away many walk-in customers who wanted to score a copy.

This should come as no surprise. Who doesn’t want to read about Jho Low, the mysterious Malaysian billionaire and financier close to the family of Malaysia’s former PM, who lived like a king and pulled off one of the biggest financial heists in history?  



Low, however, was not going to take this sitting down. Insisting he has not broken any laws, Low has employed London-based libel lawyers to send threatening letters to bookshops around the world in an attempt to stop distribution of the new book. According to a report in The Guardian, the letters sent by law firm Schillings claimed that “the decision by some bookstores to publish a synopsis of the book constituted an actionable libel of Low”.

Moreoever, Low also started a campaign to discredit the book on his website, claiming that both Wright and Hope were motivated by sales and profit, and that the narrative was intentionally skewed to highlight his sybaritic lifestyle.  

Wright immediately wrote on Twitter in response to a New Straits Times article on Low’s remarks.



Early reviews of the book have been overwhelmingly positive. Ben Mezrich, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House named it “a true-life thriller that reads like a Hollywood movie” while Jesse Eisinger, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for ProPublica described it as “a scintillating and prodigiously reported tale of a globe-spanning modern Gatsby and his audacious fraud”.

Kalimullah Hassan, former journalist and political insider who published the book The Malaysia That Could Be in 2015, also wrote a review of the book in this week’s The Edge, calling it “a brilliant piece of journalism”. Here’s an excerpt:

There are gaps in the narrative and one gets the feeling that the full story of 1MDB has yet to be told. Perhaps the details will come out during Najib’s trial, or when Jho Low and his cohorts are caught and brought to justice. But, for the time being, Billion Dollar Whale is the most complete, readable and comprehensible account of the scandal that destroyed many individuals and institutions, largely in Malaysia.

It is a must-read, especially for Malaysians who want to understand how a country, once deemed an Emerging Tiger, teetered on financial collapse because of a young man, schooled in the best institutions such as Harrow and Wharton, and a complicit, maybe initially naïve, prime minister, who not only destroyed the legacy of the most prominent political dynasty in Malaysia — the Razaks — but also everyone closely associated with him.

It is a must-read for politicians from both sides of the divide because most of them still do not seem to understand how the heist took place, save for shouting out the headline-grabbing numbers. It is a must-read for civil servants, law enforcers and regulators, not only in Malaysia but also in Singapore, Australia, the US, China, the Middle East and Europe, who either turned a blind eye, as the book reveals, or pretended not to see because of politics, personal survival, negligence, lack of oversight or simply, lack of a moral compass.”


To read the full review, purchase this week’s The Edge (issue Sept 17) or subscribe online. Find out how you can win a copy of 'Billion Dollar Whale' via our Instagram at @optionstheedge.


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