Joseph Finder
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Buy *Paranoia* online

Joseph Finder
St. Martin's Paperbacks
576 pages
July 2013
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Adam Cassidy is a corporate slacker, as his father often reminds him, a loser who will never amount to anything. At twenty-six, Cassidy is caught between believing his fatherís criticism and a rebelliousness that stems from a quick mind with no direction or ambition other than the pleasure of getting by with little effort. But Adam is clever, reasonably tech-literate and a friend of the underdog.

When the foreman of the shipping dock at Cassidyís company is about to retire with no fanfare or appreciation, Adam hacks into the company finances, funding a lavish going-away party. Great idea, putting one over on the companyÖ almost. Cassidy basks in his own self-approval until he is ordered to the office of the president, Nick Wyatt. Wyatt and his Chief of Corporate Security offer Adam two choices: jail or a job spying on their biggest rival, Trion Systems. Under duress, Adam makes his deal with the devil.

His personnel records and resume altered, Cassidy applies to Trion as a whiz kid with solid credentials who is bored with his job and will be an obvious asset to the Trion team. Adam is carefully prepped, terminology and current updates peppered with a bit of inside information to be used as necessary to protect his cover. Adam has a lot at stake: the need to be successful in his own right as well as his abhorrence of jail for a simple corporate prank.

Adam barely settles in at Trion when Wyatt demands results, especially anything concerning a special project codenamed Aurora, an innovation expected to change the face of the industry. Adam is pressured from all sides, barely able to navigate his days in the office and nights sleuthing the private offices of Trion.

Of course, the reader is aware that something is amiss from the moment Cassidy accepts the assignment to spy at Trion; he is a fish out of water when playing with the big guys. A bright one, indeed, but too far out of his depth, dependent upon the specific crash courses on products and relative jargon to legitimize his new identity. Wyatt is clearly a villain of the first order, without scruples given the opportunity to raid his competitor. Itís never clear that Wyatt has any intention of releasing Cassidy from their deal, nor has he signed any documents. In contrast, Jock Goddard, the legendary creator of Trion, is a scrupulously honest, no-frills executive who inspires his people to surpass expectations.

Circumstances close in on Cassidy just as he starts thinking of himself as one of the Trion group, as well as the promise of an office romance that is particularly irresistible. Wyatt demands what Cassidy can no longer give, creating an impossible conundrum, and the young corporate spy must find a way to disengage himself. He devises a dangerous scheme to turn the tables on Wyatt, a wild bit of legerdemain that keeps the reader turning pages, expecting the unexpected. But Finder adds some shocking twists that turn the plausible inside-out.

This engaging protagonist, labeled a loser all his life, has gotten into a predicament that may prove his judgmental father right, after all. In that critical moment of truth, Cassidy aspires to be a better man, putting his future on the line for the respect he craves. Caught between youthful hubris and the desire for admiration, Adam Cassidy makes a tough choice, maybe, this time the right one.

© 2004 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book.

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