There’s a reason Joseph Finder is an award-winning, best-selling author: he knows how to tell a deeply compelling story. Despite his proclivity toward writing standalone novels—a relative rarity among career thriller or mystery authors—Finder is adept at delivering a brand-new cast of believable characters for his adventures, and his latest is no exception.
The Fixer centers on Rick Hoffman, an out-of-work Boston journalist who, years ago, gave up on his longtime dream of becoming the next Bob Woodward in order to accept a lucrative puff-piece position at a tabloid focusing on the rich and famous. When his job is eliminated as the magazine axes its print division, he struggles to put the pieces of his life together until he uncovers a secret: $3.4 million hidden in the crawl space of his father’s house. He has no idea how it got there, and the only person who could reveal its source—his father—hasn’t spoken a word since suffering a stroke eighteen years earlier.
Tapping into his investigative journalistic instincts that had lain dormant since abandoning his once promising career for the siren call of the cushy tabloid job, Rick embarks on a quest to discover not only where the money came from, but what kind of man his father really was. For all the secrets, conspiracies, and cover-ups Rick discovers during his quest, it is what he learns about his father—a man he realizes he never really knew—that is most impactful, both for Rick and for the reader.
Finder puts his personal knowledge of Boston to good use, with locations such as Cambridge and Brookline as well as topics such as the Big Dig, the Irish mob, and city-level political graft and corruption naturally integrated into the plot. He also takes a few incisive jabs at the clickbait generation of “journalism” in an artful but resonant manner.
A close third-person view focused on Rick gets the reader inside the head of this flawed but relatable protagonist, but the supporting cast is equally genuine-feeling, from his once-jilted lover who continues to surprise him to his helpful but perhaps not entirely trustworthy childhood neighbor to a ‘reputation manager’ to the rich and powerful who just oozes sleaze. The tale’s tempo escalates at a measured pace, and it’s clear by the natural rhythm of the reveals that this isn’t Finder’s first rodeo. Even a seemingly anti-climactic section toward the end is expertly used to set up a massively rewarding finale, one that will have readers cheering.
Though the story is framed as a conspiracy-mystery-thriller – and the secrets Rick uncovers and the dangers he escapes certainly bear out that premise – THE FIXER is at its core a story about fathers and sons, a deeply personal tale about broken dreams, impossible choices, and, ultimately, redemption. Adroitly told with a riveting cast of three-dimensional characters and enlightening reveals aplenty, Finder’s latest standalone should be on everyone’s summer reading list.