The Fixer
A novel by Joseph Finder
Book review by Jules Brenner
Dutton, released 6/9/15, 384 pp., $28.00
Return to list of books

Rick Hoffman, investigative reporter on the celebrity beat, had a lot to learn -- but he didn't know it yet. Not until he lost his job, his fiance'e and his apartment, and had to seek refuge in his father's old house in which he grew up, that he begins to find out how much he never knew about his own story.

The Cambridge, Mass. place has been vacant for years -- ever since Lenny, his dad, has been in a nursing home following his stroke some eighteen years ago. A tour through the walls at the urging of next door neighbor Jeff, a contractor who's lobbying hard for the congenial Rick to let him redo the ageing domicile for a fair price. That's when he, Rick, spots it.

"It" is a covered cache of money, a real fortune; amounting to $3.4 million.

Which raises every investigative pore in Rick's mind and body, especially about his father -- a man he apparently never really knew much about. Nothing in Rick's momories or about the silent invalid he visits once a week prepared him for this, easily the greatest shock of his life.

He gets no explanation from that wordless man in the nursing home who has lost the ability to communicate except to blink yes or no at a question. But the reaction, a furtive look, a sudden stressful breathing, tells Rick that his question about the money pile is putting fear in the man that Rick has never seen on his dad's face before.

What Rick learns in a clue-by-clue investigation leads to the corruptions of twenty years ago involving Boston public works, back when the mob had their fingers in the city's budget. And, now, as Rick pursues the truth about all the money, his life is in the hands of one man who can have him killed in an instant. The question is how his gentle dad played a key role in all of it and wound up with so much dough.

It's a bit grand as a conception but I'm pleased by Finder's mastery of all corners of his storytelling craft since my last read of his work. An impressive example is the scene between Rick and Alex Pappas -- a delicate play starting out as a mock interview and turning into a tricky attempt by a powerful crook -- who could have Rick snuffed in a momoment -- to intimidate and negotiate for "his" money.

The themes and elements to the scene are tantalizing: for what Lenny Hoffman -- the title character who fixed the money stream -- was able to do for the corrupt operation before his stroke. But at this point in the story, Pappas didn't think Lenny was able to communicate and that his son was clueless.

It's a solid, skillful, twisty thriller that moves me into Joseph Finder's fan column. Recommended.

If you don't yet own The Fixer and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click right here.