The Fixer
Joseph Finder
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Buy *The Fixer* by Joseph Finderonline

The Fixer
Joseph Finder
384 pages
June 2015
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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You know what they say: follow the money. That trail is made more difficult when the money has been hidden behind the lathe and plaster walls in a dilapidated house in Boston for almost twenty years. Down-and-out journalist Rick Hoffman is sleeping on the couch of what was once his family home. His father, Lenny, is in care and unable to speak after a stroke; Hoffman plans to sell the house and share whatever meager profit with sister Wendy. His career prospects shattered by a decision to move from the Boston Globe to a glossy magazine run by an arrogant and arbitrary owner, Rick is surrounded by the detritus of his attorney father’s former life: cases of legal books and the neglected paraphernalia of a home recently invaded by squatters, even his expensive wardrobe relegated to the shelves of a resale store. The breakup with a former fiancé puts an end to any dreams Rick harbors of domestic bliss.

Awakened by a neighbor, contractor Jeff Hollenbeck, the two men discuss doing surface repairs to the house, Jeff willing to front the money until the sale. Knocking out the back of a closet to get to whatever vermin are clattering behind the walls and keeping him awake, Rick discovers something wrapped in plastic. Jeff maneuvers to see what it is, and Rick finds himself staring at a stack of hundred dollar bills. Pretending it’s just a pile of old receipts, Rick hurries his neighbor out the door. When the remodel begins the next day, Jeff’s workers--three burly men with jail tattoos and a penchant for blaring rap music--inform Rick that his contractor has changed the terms of their deal, not too subtly remarking that Hoffman can now afford the cost of repairs.

Already worried about the safety of where he has stashed the money, Rick’s problem with Jeff is insignificant in light of other events since his discovery: first he is followed, then abducted and threatened by thugs he cannot see for the bag covering his head. Clearly someone else knows about the secret stash, someone with muscle and the power to make Hoffman comply with his demands. The source of the money remains a mystery, the crux of a convoluted plot that sends Rick on a chase for information after the paper trail has long disappeared, if it ever existed. Looking at the quiet life of the mild-mannered Lenny differently, Rick starts with his dad. The retired attorney is unable to speak or communicate, the son desperate to find a way to engage his father. Ignoring his building terror of his unknown foes, Hoffman reverts to what he knows best: investigation, tackling names, places, dates, paper trails and public records to learn the elusive name of the man behind the money. The stacks of undeclared cash may have been a windfall--except they aren’t his.

Finder fashions a classic cat-and-mouse trap for a protagonist who has lived high and fallen low, suddenly threatened on all sides by a greedy contractor and the hired muscle of the man who wants his nearly 3.5 million back. The money, of course, exerts its own corrupting influence, even Rick not immune to how his life could change with this unexpected bounty: “He wanted to keep that money and just live his life.” Hoffman is flush with paper money in a world that conducts commerce with plastic, conscious of the danger of flashing his cash, awkwardly attempting to evade whoever is following him. He learns on the fly and not without significant pain. The Fixer doesn’t demand much from his characters, clearly separated into good and bad guys. Finder seems to enjoy himself, though, Rick Hoffman learning the hard way how harshly life evens the scales.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2015

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