The Fear Index

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This article is about the novel by Robert Harris. For the index often nicknamed the 'fear index', see VIX.
The Fear Index
First edition
Author Robert Harris
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Thriller
Publisher Hutchinson
Publication date
29 Sep 2011
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 323 pp
ISBN 978-0-09-193696-9

The Fear Index is a 2011 novel by British author Robert Harris. It is set in a period of roughly 24 hours from the 6 May 2010—the date of the British general election and the Flash Crash. It follows the interactions of a group of employees at Hoffmann Investment Technologies, a fictional hedge fund operating in Geneva.


The story begins as Dr Alex Hoffmann, an American expat living in Switzerland, and the founder of his eponymous hedge fund, is attacked in his home by an unknown assailant. The next morning he proceeds to his company, where his British CEO, the charismatic Hugo Quarry, is pitching for a renewed investment from the firm's existing clients. They seek to utilise Hoffmann's genius with algorithms into a system, named VIXAL-4, which can provide sufficient data on the markets to generate successful hedges.

Over the course of the business day the situation becomes unstable, with VIXAL assuming a level of risk considered unsustainable by the human staff, and they strive to shut it down. As this happens Hoffmann also begins to suspect that he is losing his mind.


Writing in The Guardian, literary critic Mark Lawson called the novel gripping, and described it as 'a speedy read, [which] is the appropriate medium for a story in which many of the key events... take place in milliseconds'.[1] The Observer called it 'thoroughly enjoyable',[2] while Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph wrote 'The Fear Index is a frightening book, of course, as, with its title, it intends. Harris has an excellent sense of pace...'[3]


Robert Harris has written a screenplay adaptation of the novel, for a film to be directed by Paul Greengrass and produced by 20th Century Fox.[4]