The Fixer

9780525954613_p0_v3_s192x300In Joseph Finder’s The Fixer, Rick Hoffman finds a pile of hundred-dollar bills – over three million dollars – in the crawl space of his father’s old house in Boston.  With this electrifying premise, Hoffman begins a tale of corruption and undercover payoffs connected to Boston’s Big Dig.

Rick, an investigative reporter who has just lost his job, while happy to find the unexpected windfall, suspects his father, now paralyzed by a stroke, could reveal the secrets behind the mystery – if only he could speak.  As he investigates his father’s past, Rick discovers a crusading attorney who helped the underdog but who also funded his pro bono cases with laundered money from illegal sources. Rick’s father was the “fixer,” a go-between who was rewarded with cash.

The story has frantic moments, red herrings, and enough plot turns to sustain the suspense but I found myself just wanting to know “how the story ends,” and skipping over extraneous dialogue and irrelevant descriptions.  The big reveal included a happy ending, with the good guys getting the bad guys.

A fast summer read full of dirty money and atonement – The Fixer was a fun way to pass the time.  Maybe it’s time to clean out the attic – no telling what is in there.

Gone

Did the carjacker know about the little girl in the backseat?  After the tense hours of searching turn into days, Mo Hadley’s Gone has you hooked on a chase for the monster – who was really after the girl, not the car.  But nothing is as it seems, and Hadley throws in clever distractions to keep you from seeing him – right there the whole time.

Each time, detective Jack Caffery gets a break in the investigation, another clue takes him in another direction.  The Walking Man, a released convict, who avenged the death of his abducted child, wanders in and out of the story, offering advice.  Caffery’s relationship with the underwater investigation team leader, Sergeant (Phoebe) Flea Marley, underscores the action.  Even as they work together, they are pulled apart by Flea’s cover-up of her brother’s hit-and-run, another vein pulsing through the action.

The kidnapper flaunts his cleverness – sending mocking letters, a baby tooth, pictures from inside the victim’s home, and always seems to be one step ahead of the investigation team.   And then he does it again – hijacks a car and takes another little girl.

Hadley’s attention to detail is riveting, and the end is not easily guessed – a fun mystery thriller that will have you reading into the night.  If you need your mystery thrillers to have a British flavor and a happy ending, you will find this one very satisfying.

If you want more, Mo Hayder has two more in the series of mystery thrillers with Jack Caffery, Flea, and the Walking Man: Ritual and Skin.

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

Whew!  I read The Silent Land in under three hours, and enjoyed every minute of the suspenseful ride.  Clues to the ending started seeping in toward the end, but, by then, I was committed to finding out if what I guessed, was really what had happened.  Think of Graham Joyce’s The Silent Land as a great episode of the old TV thriller “The Twilight Zone” or “Lost.”   Joyce is a winner of the O. Henry Award – a clue to expect a surprise ending.

Zoe and Jake Bennett are in the French Alps for a ski holiday, and have the pristine slopes all to themselves on a perfect crisp morning.  As they make their way down the hill, an avalanche buries them in the snow.  Amazingly, they dig themselves out and walk down to their hotel to find it abandoned.  As the story continues, time seems to have stopped – with the meat and vegetables in the restaurant kitchen not decaying, candles never burning down, no new logs needed to keep the fire going.  Their attempts to ride or walk away from the resort are fruitless; no matter what direction they take, they always return to the same place.

Jake assumes they died in the avalanche and are now trapped in a pleasant limbo.  For a while, they enjoy the skiing on slopes they have all to themselves and drink the best wines from the restaurant, as they try to understand what has happened.  Eventually, strangers intrude – men in masks, a great black horse, a favorite dog…and clues that will lead you to an obvious conclusion that has been used before in novels.

At the heart of the story is Jake and Zoe’s marriage, and Zoe’s secret – that she is pregnant.  Joyce effectively keeps the attention focused on his characters.  It’s their relationship that drives the action, with clever banter and the quick, knowing connections of a married couple who know each other well, but are still discovering more.  As their world becomes fragmented,  their memories hold them together.

Combining mystery, romance, and just the fun of solving a puzzle, The Silent Land is an appealing fast ride down a slippery slope – and much better than watching TV.