Click here to read reviewer A. Jurek's take on The Finder.
“Stupid. You can’t be so stupid and expect to survive.”
In his latest thriller, Harrison departs from the regular terrain of earlier novels, including the dense prose and darkly human dilemmas of his remarkable protagonists. It all begins one night in New York after a cleaning crew finishes their shift, two illegal Mexican employees and their Chinese boss, Jin Li, driving to the shore to unwind.
Jin Li’s cleaning agency is quite a sophisticated operation, offering secure document-shredding to corporate offices that pay handsomely for such service. But Jin Li’s brother, Chen, has come up with a brilliant scheme back in China, mining some of that supposedly-shredded information as material for business opportunities, notably on the stock exchange, his Chinese partners benefiting from insider information.
Out of nowhere, the girls’ car is blocked by two vehicles, the two employees inside killed in a most grotesque manner (setting the tone for the rest of the novel). Jin Li is not in the car, hidden by nearby sea grass as the gruesome event unfolds; instinctively, she knows she is the target of this bizarre incident. Now Jin Li is on the run, with any number of interested parties on her trail.
Harrison delivers an intricate plot that explores the underbelly of a city that functions on a number of levels, including illegal, beneath the scrutiny of the public or its agencies. With Jin Li the focus of the search, a number of interested individuals pursue separate agendas, from a Chinese investor who depends upon the woman for insider knowledge that benefits his investors to a hedge-fund billionaire determined to recover his investment before he faces the impending consequences of his body’s decline.
Then there is the sadistic Mafia-connected thug who senses opportunity in the failure of others, and Jin Li’s ex-boyfriend, Ray Grant, who desperately attempts to unravel the tentacles of an elaborate scheme while his retired detective father endures the final stages of a particularly painful form of cancer.
Dredging up the festering underbelly of crime and greed that drives the novel from Manhattan high-rises to a cement bunker in Red Hook, Harrison delivers a strong finish, entrenched mob operatives and the new corporate manipulators equally adept at leveraging their options. With characters as iconic as New York’s colorful history, the only difference in the players is their worldly sophistication and the price of their suits. The results are deadly.
However, as well-plotted as is this thriller, I miss the intense character-driven work of Harrison’s earlier novels (The Havana Room, Afterburn, Break and Enter), the dense prose of human conflict yielding to a more Tom Wolfe-ian approach to New York, all fast-paced action and quick dialog. This story has much to recommend it, but for anyone expecting the usual Harrison fare, The Finder will either be a disappointment or a surprise.