March 31, 2003 12:00 PM

By Mimi Swartz with Sherron Watkins

Given the astonishing rise and fall of Enron—a corporate house of cards valued at $74 billion in early 2001 and worth precisely nothing a year later—it’s no surprise that this book identifies any number of sinners at the energy trading company. The tale would have had more spark had the authors been able to identify a saint or two. Oddly, Watkins, known as the whistle-blower whose Cassandra-like internal memos about the company’s coming implosion fell on deaf ears, emerges as a minor player in an otherwise compelling story (cowritten by Texas Monthly editor Swartz) of the Houston firm’s dirtier-than-J.R. Ewing culture. A foulmouthed ex-accountant, Watkins comes across as a loyal soldier who never tattled to the feds; her memos turned up in a pile of subpoenaed files. Despite thorough reporting and brisk writing, the book lacks the clear moral message or high drama of great business books like Den of Thieves. (Doubleday, $26)

BOTTOM LINE: Medium wattage

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