Thursday, November 26, 2009


Joseph Finder is the acknowledged master of the corporate thriller and I enjoyed his earlier books, Power Play and Paranoia. But he seems to have lost some of crackle and pop in this book. The pages keep turning, but the payoff is not great.

For one thing, he strays in this book away from a purely corporate world, setting the book in DC and making a fictional version of Blackwater the central corporate entity and mixing politics, kickbacks and mercenaries into the story.

One annoying thing, which is difficult to pull off and which doesn't really work here, is switching back and forth from first person to third person in the narration.

But the main problem is that the hero, Nick Heller, who is the first person narrator, isn't as interesting as Finder's earlier protagonists. In fact, none of the characters, with the possible exception of Heller's teenage nephew, arouses much sympathy or takes on any real dimension. This may have been true in the earlier books as well, but it was less noticeable then. Several of these characters are simply plot devices garnished with a tell-tale trait that don't really convince. There is no love interest for the hero, who plays protector to his sister-in-law and nephew (his brother is the one who vanished), and no back story for that dimension either.

But Nick Heller is of course an ace, an ex-Special Forces, martial arts, all-around know-it-all. For some reason, he kept reminding me of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther character, but without the charming quirks. Finder had better luck with his business types. He can't match Flynn or Balducci or Silva on the op hero. The sister-in-law is a virtual nonentity, and the DC police officer role seems written for Morgan Freeman to play.

The plot, too, in contrast to the earlier books, is fairly derivative. There are a couple of twists, but the main line of the plot was never really in doubt. The climax and the denouement are a bit out of sync and both fall flat.

In short, if you want to read a book by Joseph Finder, read Power Play and give this one a pass.

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