Harrison’s writing has been remarkably consistent, his latest protagonist the consummate New Yorker in mid-life angst presented with an opportunity that could bode well or evil: “New York City has a way of knocking people around.” His last two novels, The Finder and Risk, have veered slightly from the depth of The Havana Room, Afterburn, and Break and Enter. I have suspended judgment since The Finder, which proved a less sophisticated and nuanced work than what I have come to expect.
While Risk again treads safer territory, it does show signs of the qualities I have so appreciated in this author. Beyond the obvious movement of plot and resolution of conflict, Harrison peels back yet another layer in a middle-aged man’s daily existence, revealing the internal self-examination that accompanies maturity.
George Young appreciates the direction his life has taken, opportunities that have allowed a successful career with a notable law firm. When the dying widow of the firm’s founder requests his aid, George is hardly in a position to refuse. Mrs. Corbett’s son has died recently, killed in a random accident outside a neighborhood bar. What his mother wants to know before she dies: Roger Corbett’s actions just before the fatal accident.
To that end, George begins a careful investigation of Roger’s life - his greatly reduced fortunes since a costly and painful divorce, the relationship between Roger and his Czech girlfriend, Eliska, and the identities of a few other furtive figures who are also involved in tracking Roger’s last moves.
Young takes nothing for granted, turning over every stone in an attempt to understand Corbett’s frame of mind the night he died. What begins as a casual investigation by an insurance attorney becomes a personal journey with life-altering consequences. Harrison proves, once again, that life is a contact sport, that even the humorous remarks of a charming wife cannot protect him from learning more than he ever wanted to know.
This is the territory of high finance, and the author casts a bright light on the upper echelons of the business environment. More gratifying than the wheeling and dealing of the powerful is George’s evolution from passive bystander to a man on the cusp of enormous change in a thoughtful and rewarding character study.