The Switch, by Joseph Finder

Eight stars

Joseph Finder is back with another high-quality standalone novel that will provide chills and increased heart rates for many readers. After retuning home from a business trip, Michael Tanner discovers that his laptop was inadvertently swapped with an identical model at LAX. After accessing it, Tanner learns that the laptop belongs to none other than ‘S. Robbins’, as in US Senator Susan Robbins. A little more sleuthing leads him to discover a cache of top secret documents on the desktop, all related to an operation codenamed Chrysalis. From what he can understand, this operation would pose significant issues to the American public and he is not entirely certain that he wants it kept under wraps. Meanwhile, Senator Robbins is in possession of Tanner’s laptop, which she discovers with the help of her Chief of Staff, Will Abbott. Wanting to ensure the most plausible deniability, the senator leaves Will the arduous task of retrieving the laptop, as they both know what sits on the desktop. Abbott seeks to build a bond with Tanner in hopes of making a simple swap, but things soon turn dire, especially when the laptop cannot be located. Tanner has come to learn that he will be entirely expendable as soon as he returns the laptop, forcing him into a game of cat and mouse, first with Abbott and eventually with the NSA. Forced to abandon his coffee business and live on the run, Michael Tanner is a wanted man, but no one can broadcast this, for fear that he will release these sensitive documents and create an even larger headache for the US Government. What began as a simple laptop switcheroo has turned into a snafu of the highest order. Wonderfully crafted, Finder balances high-impact suspense with some key social issues that plague the world at present. Readers who enjoy a novel that does not stop will surely want to leap on for the ride, unsure of unseen twists!

There are few authors who are able to captivate me on a repeated basis with their stories. Joseph Finder is one such author, as his stories balance the complexities that face the everyday person, struggling to balance their civic duty with a want to live the simple life. Michael Tanner is the perfect such character, a man of simple means who wants to earn a buck and enjoy the fruits of his labour. Contrast him with Will Abbott, whose life remains high octane both on Capitol Hill and at home, with a baby. Finder adds a number of other characters, who flavour the narrative with their own quirks and push the reader to decide how trustworthy they might be. The ‘constant dash’ that is common in Finder novels does not let up for a second, allowing the reader to latch on and bounce from scene to scene, with little time to catch their breath. The story is crisp and believable, while also pushing forward some decent ‘soap box lectures’ about buzz topics that have arisen over the last few years. Where does privacy end and protection commence? How much do we know about what the government is doing around us? For how long will the club of “September 11th” be used to beat any opposition to spying on American (and likely any) citizens? All these questions and more are woven into the narrative and keep the story moving. An excellent piece that will surely capture the attention of many longtime Finder fans and those only recently discovering his work.

Kudos, Mr. Finder for such a great addition to your collection of novels. I always know I am in for something stellar when your name pops up!