Monday, January 24, 2022

Company Man

Joseph Finder is a Boston-based bestselling author of modern contemporary thrillers. His books sell like hotcakes and are readily available at your local airport newsstand near the $25 neck pillows. My first exposure to his work is his 600-page paperback behemoth from 2005 titled Company Man, also released as No Hiding Place in the U.K.

Our protagonist is Nick Conover, the CEO of a giant office furniture manufacturer whose resistance to outsourcing production to China has resulted in major layoffs at home. The Michigan-based corporation is owned by shadowy venture capitalists from Boston who are looking for a better return on their investment than current conditions will allow. Nick’s also a widower raising two kids on his own.

The novel wastes no time propelling Nick and the reader into a whirlwind of anxiety. Lately, someone has been breaking into his empty, gated community McMansion and spray-painting veiled threats on the walls. Nick assumes the stalker/vandal is yet another disgruntled former employee pissed about a prior or pending round of layoffs. The stalker’s menace escalates with the slaughter of the family dog, and the local cops are being less-than-helpful to the guy responsible for the small-town’s rising unemployment rates.

Identifying the stalker is easy business, but things are more complicated than they seem. A bad decision in dealing with the stalker situation puts Nick in serious peril and legal jeopardy. This escalates into some high-stakes corporate skullduggery with so many plot twists that neither Nick nor the reader knows who to trust. A dogged and likable female police detective is thrown into the mix as a co-protagonist.

The author delivers the narrative in a smooth and readable style similar to John Grisham or Harlan Coben. The chapters are short and punchy with a big typeface and ample space between lines, making 600 pages feel like 400 — less than a modern doorstop paperback but still way too long for the novel’s relevant content. I recognize that big books allow a publisher to overcharge for a paperback, but the novel made me repeatedly mutter, “Get on with it, already.”

Pro-Tip: If you skip or skim all of the sections regarding Nick’s kids and dead wife and eliminate the sections about the female police officer’s family, you’ll cut out a lot of completely extraneous filler and be left with a decent thriller.

There is some good white-collar crime, corporate stuff in this paperback along with a credible police procedural crime story. The ending of the novel has a plot twist that I didn’t find completely believable, and I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters. Overall, I enjoyed Company Man enough to give the book a tepid recommendation. Get the book HERE

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