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Book Author: Joseph Finder

JUDGMENT by Joseph Finder: Book Review

Take one step down a slippery slope, and the next thing you know you’re falling faster than you ever imagined possible.  According to Wikipedia, that font of all knowledge, “a slippery slope…is a consequentialist logical fallacy in which a party asserts that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of unrelated events culminating in some significant (usually negative) effect.”

To put it more simply, when something goes wrong or one makes an unwise decision, additional wrong decisions follow until the final one leads to disaster (my definition).  That is certainly the case for Juliana Brody, a respected judge on the Massachusetts Superior Court, who makes a wrong decision, or maybe two such decisions, that may cost her her life.

Juliana has just given a presentation at a national lawyers’ conference in Chicago and is sitting alone on the hotel’s rooftop terrace.  She’s had her self-imposed limit of one drink when a man asks if he may sit at her table.  Matías Sanchez is staying at the hotel too, attending a different conference, and they enter into an interesting discussion about Mallorca, a place with which he’s very familiar.  Unwisely, Juliana has a second drink and before she has time to think it through, she and Matías are spending the night in his hotel suite.

Juliana has always been “miss goody two-shoes,”  in part to make up for her somewhat dysfunctional and chaotic childhood.  She obeys the rules, never goes over the speed limit.  She is, in her own words, “sensible, prudent, and cautious.”  So she determines to put this one misstep behind her and return to her husband, teenage son, and the Massachusetts court system.

The case currently before Juliana is a sexual harassment one.  The plaintiff, a young woman, claims that when she worked for a start-up ride-hailing company the CEO made unwanted advances to her; when she wouldn’t submit to his advances, he fired her.  The company, naturally, disputes these charges.

As Juliana returns to the courtroom after her Chicago trip, a man enters the room and sits down at the defense table.  He stands up to be introduced by his co-counsel and says, “Good afternoon, Your Honor.  My name is Matías Sanchez.”  And later that day, after having a drink with a friend at the Bostonia Club, Juliana is stunned once more to see Sanchez sitting in a chair across the room from her.

He comes to her table and tells her what he wants, a ruling in the company’s favor.  Angry and indignant, Juliana is ready to tell him to forget it when he says, “there’s a video” of their night together and proceeds to show it to her.  And what if she defies him or those who sent him, she asks.  “If you defy them, then the judgment will come,” he says.  “No appeals.  No mercy.  No justice.”

Joseph Finder has written a powerful novel about the fallout that comes from both making a mistake and trying to rectify it.  There are no easy answers for Juliana, and every step she takes seems to bring her and her family into more danger.  Judgment is a page-turner in the best sense of the word.

You can read more about Joseph Finder at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


THE FIXER by Joseph Finder: Book Review

When Rick Hoffman returns to his family home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it’s not by choice.  Unemployed except for freelance writing for a so-called journalism website, newly separated from his fiancée, nearly broke, his only option is to move into his childhood home.  The house has been uninhabited for nearly twenty years because of his father’s stroke and subsequent move to a nursing facility.  But, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers, so Rick consoles himself with the thought that things will shortly turn around for him and he’ll be able to afford a place of his own.

It appears that Jeff Hollenbeck, a neighbor and childhood friend of Rick’s, has been keeping an eye on the property so that high school kids don’t destroy it during the drinking parties they’ve been holding in it for years.  Jeff is now a building contractor, and he and Rick agree to make some major repairs to the house before putting it on the market.  Given the property market in Cambridge, home to Harvard University and other colleges, Jeff assures Rick that “…you could get two mil easy.  More, even.”

The two men take a quick tour of the decaying house.  Hearing what sounds like squirrels behind a bedroom closet, Jeff crowbars a hole into the wood and Rick crawls into the space.  Even in the dim light, Rick can see boxes piled high under the cover of a black plastic tarp.  Rick reaches into one of the boxes and comes out with a packet with a band around it.  It’s $10,000 in cash.

Trying to act casual and unsure what Jeff has seen, Rick backs out of the closet, asks Jeff to draw up a plan for the renovation, and hustles him out of the house.  Then Rick goes back into the crawl space and looks in all the boxes.  There are three hundred and ninety eight packets of bills in all, totaling nearly three and a half million dollars.

Where on earth, Rick wonders, could that money come from?  His father was an attorney with a small practice; he certainly didn’t make the kind of money that Rick has found.  Desperate to discover the source of the cash, he goes to see his father in the nursing home, although Leonard Hoffman hasn’t been able to speak in nearly twenty years and it’s unknown whether he is able to understand what is said to him.  But Rick has to try.

As Rick will soon discover, sometimes we find out things we wish we hadn’t.  But once the money is found, there’s really no going back.  And with each step he takes, the journey becomes more dangerous.

The Fixer is a terrific thriller, as the reader watches Rick develop from a rather self-centered man into a caring, compassionate one.  The questioning force that propelled him in his journalistic career is still driving him, in this case to figure out the source of the hidden money and his father’s relation to it.  Joseph Finder has written a book that you won’t want to put down.

You can read more about Joseph Finder at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.




BURIED SECRETS by Joseph Finder: Book Review

Nick Heller calls himself a “private spy.” It’s not exactly a private investigator; it seems he’s more concerned with finding out secrets about the rich and powerful.  And he does a good job.

In Buried Secrets, Nick  is approached by an old friend, Marshall Marcus, to rescue Marshall’s  teenage daughter Alexa from kidnappers. Nick will do almost anything for Marshall, who gave Nick’s mother a job after her husband ran away to avoid being jailed for financial crimes, but he realizes soon enough that Marshall is holding something, or several somethings, back.  However, Nick believes that Marshall truly wants his daughter rescued, even as Nick believes that Marshall’s cold-as-ice wife couldn’t care less about the safety of her stepdaughter.

In addition to Alexa’s abduction, Marshall is facing another problem. His firm lost billion of dollars in investments through the embezzlement of a former employee. Reluctant to admit his firm’s bankruptcy, he had borrowed additional billions from drug dealers and armament dealers in a vain attempt to recoup the funds, and now he’s in a deeper hole than before.  So if it’s money the kidnappers want, his daughter Alexa is really in a tight spot.

This is the second time that Alexa has been abducted, although in the first instance she was simply picked up from a shopping mall, driven around Boston for several hours, and then released.  There was no ransom demand then, and no explanation for the kidnapping ever surfaced.

The more deeply Nick delves into the case, the more secrets he uncovers. Why, in the first place, does Alexa’s best friend Taylor lie about what happened on the night the two of them went out to a Boston nightclub and Alexa disappeared?  Why is FBI agent Gordon Snyder doing everything in his power to keep Nick off the case?  Why does the story of how Marshall met his wife change with every telling?

Nick’s only friend at the Boston office of the FBI is his former lover, Diana Madigan. She’s willing to use the information Nick shared with her to help him, but she is not involved in the search for Alexa.  However, Diana does tell Nick that the reason Gordon Snyder is so wary of Nick’s interest in the case is that the FBI is doing a major investigation into Marshall Marcus’s firm and financial crimes.  And Gordon is afraid that looking for Alexa will compromise that investigation.

As Nick continues his investigation, it gets more and more dangerous.  His loft is broken into, he’s tasered, and still his client won’t give him all the information he needs.  What is Marshall continuing to hold back, and why?

Buried Secrets is the second in the Nick Heller series. The characters are really well-written, portrayed with their human faults and foibles, and Nick is a fascinating protagonist.  Joseph Finder has a very impressive resume that includes a master’s degree from Harvard’s Russian Research Center, and his knowledge of behind-the-scenes international deals seems very accurate.  This is definitely a series that I hope will continue.

You can read more about him at his web site.