It has been said that Joseph Finder is "rewriting the rules for contemporary thrillers." Although COMPANY MAN, his latest novel, is his sixth work of fiction, he remains unpredictable in both style and content. One never knows what to expect with a Finder book. The only constant is that he never disappoints.
COMPANY MAN introduces the reader to Nick Conover, CEO of the Stratton Corporation in Fenwick, Michigan. Conover seemingly has the world by the tail with a downhill pull. He lives in a beautiful home, has two children who he adores, and is the head of a well-established, well-respected company. But Conover is besieged on all sides. After twelve months he is still reeling from the death of his wife, an occurrence for which he holds himself responsible. His teenage son, Nick, appears to be veering out of control. Conover also had to reluctantly and regrettably preside over a massive layoff of workers at Stratton. Given that Fenwick is a company town, the firings have affected virtually everyone in the city --- and have earned Conover both the enmity of the town and the nickname "The Slasher."
Conover's house is now being vandalized repeatedly, even though the residence is located in a gated, limited access subdivision. When a horrifying incident occurs there, Conover resolves to take matters into his own hands, resulting in the death of an ex-employee trespassing on Conover's front yard in the early morning hours. Conover attempts to cover up the matter, but Audrey Rhimes, a homicide detective with the Fenwick Police Department, suspects Conover's involvement almost from the moment she begins her investigation. Although roadblocked by her partner and her superiors, Rhimes is a person of deep and quiet faith who is steadfastly determined to do the right thing.
Meanwhile, Conover finds that he is under siege at Stratton as well. Actions are being taken in his name, which he knows nothing about, and the very people he should be able to rely upon seem to be undermining him on several levels. Finder creates an interesting counterpoint here between Conover's professional and personal life. Conover struggles to do the right thing in the office while covering up his personal complicity in the death of another. He fails miserably at both, and it seems that every hand, except for one rather unlikely hand, is raised against him. When Conover finally sees a solution, he discovers that it has been in front of him all along. But does his epiphany come as too little, too late?
COMPANY MAN is an intricately plotted work, and it is a tribute to Finder's ability as a writer that he renders the complex simple and understandable without dumbing things down for those of us unfamiliar with corporate skullduggery and the myriad forms it takes. More significantly, however, COMPANY MAN is about people. Rhimes is arguably a secondary character, yet she steals the book as she becomes in her own way a catalyst by which justice is done. While the novel ultimately is not about Rhimes, she is so riveting that one is left wondering what becomes of her after the last page is read. This is one of my benchmarks of a good book, which is what COMPANY MAN is. Recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 28, 2010