Joseph Finder,
The Fixer
(Dutton, 2015)

Joseph Finder's new thriller brings his total up to a dozen novels, and it is a fine one. The veteran writer has connected: solid story, intriguing characters, a breakneck pace and suspense that doesn't let up. If, like me, you've found his previous novels to be mostly pretty good, you'll find with this one, he's hit a new high. Despite a couple of minor lapses, The Fixer, from start to finish, will have you riveted.

In it, Rick Hoffman -- a former investigative journalist for the Boston Globe who has sold out by going over to a glossy city-type magazine that specialized in glamorizing the rich and famous and who is now out of work because the magazine overspent and has folded -- decides to renovate the house he grew up in so he can sell it. As he and the contractor, a neighbor he grew up with, examine the house, Hoffman stumbles on a huge pile of cash -- more than $3 million.

At first, he goes berserk, spending money like mad, calling attention to himself and to the fact that the money has surfaced. Inevitably, people show up wanting the money back. The book becomes a search for answers: Where did the money come from, whose was it and why are people willing to kill over it?

To find out, Hoffman has to become an investigative reporter again. He discovers that the money is connected to his father, who, it turns out, was not the simple lawyer Hoffman thought he was. What Hoffman discovers is a conspiracy is somehow connected to the Big Dig that Boston engaged in 20 years earlier, building a series of tunnels beneath the city to ease traffic.

Hoffman has to figure out what the conspiracy was about, who was involved, what his father's role in it was and how he can keep himself alive.

That's the plot level. On the thematic level, Hoffman has to come to terms with the man he became over the years, find his true self again, and learn the truth about his relationship with his father.

The Fixer is a fine book that, if you start it at night, will have you losing sleep because you'll stay up late, telling yourself at the end of every chapter, "just a few more pages."

The minor lapses I spoke of? Well, occasionally, for a smart guy, Hoffman does some stupid things like venturing, alone and without backup, into situations that are bound to lead him into violence. Finder also closes the book with a device that goes back to the Victorian era: a short final chapter that tells us the fate of all of the major characters. Since the ending is beautifully implied by the penultimate chapter, I found the wrap up unnecessary.

The fact is, though, Finder has written a good, solid thriller that will find a welcome spot on your shelves.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

18 July 2015

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