House on Fire (Nick Heller #4), by Joseph Finder

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Joseph Finder and Penguin Group Dutton for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

As Joseph Finder returns with a fourth Nick Heller novel, the reader is pulled into the centre of a wonderful story with action that does not dissipate. When Nick Heller learns that an Army buddy of his has died from an overdose, he is stunned and rushes to help however he can. Learning that Oxydone, a nasal inhaler, is likely to blame, Heller heads to the funeral slightly upset that it was a VA prescription that ended his friend’s life so early. After the service, Heller is flagged down by a mysterious woman, Susan ‘Sukie’ Kimball, daughter of billionaire Conrad Kimball. It would seem that Kimball’s pharmaceutical company, which manufactures Oxydone, might have buried studies that showed the addictive nature of the drug, releasing it to an unsuspecting public. When Susan brings Heller to her father’s birthday party, he hopes to find a hard copy of the report and blow Kimball Pharma out of the water. It would seem others are looking for dirt on Kimball, but everything remains smoke and mirrors. Another birthday guest turns up dead and Heller can only wonder if there is a killer trying to silence any information leaks. Determined to find the report, Heller embarks on a mission behind high-security, unsure what else he will uncover. Inching ever close, Heller will have to put himself in harm’s way to get to the truth, but can never be sure it will yield the ultimate prize. Prepared to bring down the House of Kimball, Heller must ensure he is not a casualty in the larger scheme. A nail-biting thriller that will keep the reader enthralled until the final reveal. Recommended to those who love a good thriller, as well as the reader who enjoys plots pulled from the headlines.

I have long enjoyed the work of Joseph Finder, as it pushes the boundaries of the genre in new and exciting ways. Finder has been able to keep his readers intrigued as he touches on social issues in a relatable way with an exciting narrative. Nick Heller remains a great protagonist with this piece, his substantial backstory finding new ways to make it into the narrative. Heller is passionate about protecting the reputation of those close to him, even if he finds himself helpless to their foibles. A trained PI, Heller has numerous ways to get to the bottom of a situation, sometimes sacrificing his own well-being to get the needed information. Gritty and never afraid to rock the boat, Heller finds himself in many situations that push him to the brink. There are others who find themselves influencing the narrative in a variety of ways, helping to push the story along which enriching the overall reading experience. In a piece whose primary focus is drug addiction and overdose, Finder turns to Big Pharma and points the finger there, as many have found themselves hopelessly addicted. Another poignant social issue receives its due here as the reader is pulled to the centre and forced to decide for themselves. Finder has a knack of delivering just what is needed at the perfect moment.

Kudos, Mr. Finder, for another winner. I hope others find this one to be just as exciting.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

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!