There is a vignette in THE FINDER, Colin Harrison’s
latest novel, that is worth buying and reading the whole book for.
Actually, there are several --- several dozen --- but let’s
talk about just one right now. It involves two men, both named Ray
Grant (one Jr., one Sr.). Sr. is an ex-NYPD detective who is dying
from the inside out of cancer. He wants Jr., a somewhat enigmatic,
extremely capable guy, to help him end it all. Jr. refuses, for
what seems like a selfish reason: he wants as much time with Sr. as
possible. I’ve given nothing away here (I hate when people do
that, even with the best of intentions, don’t you?), but pay
close attention to this exchange. It becomes very important later.
And, like the rest of THE FINDER, it is an incredibly well-told
tale, perfect in every way.
Harrison does not publish often --- about every three or four years
is his cycle --- so that, no doubt out of consideration for his
audience, he writes stand-alone books instead of series. You
won’t find yourself wondering how the cast is going to stop a
runaway train at the conclusion of one of his novels, which frees
him up a bit. He can end a book any way he pleases because you
won’t see the characters again. Accordingly, he has had some
of the darkest endings I can remember reading. It’s what
comes between the beginning and the end, however, that's important.
What Harrison does, to superior effect, is take a bunch of
disparate folks, put them to cross-purposes at each other and watch
what happens. In the case of THE FINDER, it’s quite a
In addition to the two Rays, the book introduces Jin-Li, a young
Chinese woman who is the head of a New York City document disposal
service with a very select clientele. She is also the ex-girlfriend
of Ray Jr. Jin-Li has a brother, Chen, in mainland China who is
able to make warehouses full of money thanks to Jin-Li, in a way
that will have you shaking your head in admiration while trembling
with fear. Jin-Li has a client, Good Pharma, whose nominal head,
Tom Reilly, discovers that the small pharmaceutical company has
been adversely affected by Chen and Jin-Li. In the unfortunate
choice of words to the wrong person, he sets a number of disastrous
chains of events in motion.
And there’s Bill Martz, with more money than God and the
power to buy everyone I’ve just listed, and more, several
times over. Martz is heavily leveraged with Good Pharma, and if the
company is hurting, then Martz is really hurting. It turns out that
Martz has a low pain threshold, and when he discovers what’s
going on, it’s not pretty.
We begin meeting all of these folks, fine and otherwise, when
Jin-Li goes out one night clubbing with a couple of her Hispanic
workers. The night ends in a particularly horrific way with two
women dead and Jin-Li on the run and in hiding. This incident
brings her brother out of his mainland China hidey-hole and to New
York City. His financial empire depends upon Jin-Li doing her job,
something she can’t do while she’s in hiding. Chen
knows about Ray Jr. and thinks that he is responsible for his
sister’s disappearance and possible death. Ray doesn’t
know a thing --- Jin-Li had broken up with him weeks before, and he
still does not know why --- but he wants to find out where Jin-Li
is and why someone wants to kill her. Ray Jr. turns to his father,
one of the best people and detectives he knows. At first, Ray Sr.
isn’t a lot of help; he is heavily sedated and barely lucid,
more often than not. Yet Ray Sr. holds a small but important key to
what is occurring in THE FINDER, information upon which
Jin-Li’s life, and more, will ultimately depend.
Obviously, not everyone who appears here is going to make it to the
end. Like most of Harrison’s work, it did not conclude the
way I thought. All I will say is that you should not expect a
sequel. But don’t let that keep you from eagerly anticipating
his next book, especially if you read THE FINDER.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011