Joseph Finder is a founding member of the International Thriller Writers and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. He graduated from Yale College where he developed an intense interest in Russian history, culture and politics. He has also completed a Master’s degree at Harvard University studying the Soviet Union.
Unsurprisingly his novels heavily involve espionage with Russia playing a significant role. His deep understanding of anything to do with Russia and his former work with the CIA ensures that the stories are told with a great deal of authority.
Finder writes spy thrillers and the majority are stand-alone works that can be read in any order. He also writes a series featuring an ex-member of the Special Forces named Nick Heller who now works as an international security consultant.
The Stand-Alone Thrillers
The first novel is titled The Moscow Club and it follows CIA analyst Charlie Stone who made a name for himself during the Cold War. He has been called back into action even though the Cold War is over thanks to the emergence of a transcript tape that has been smuggled out of Russia. He is needed to verify its authenticity but its contents lead him on an explosive game of cat and mouse.
The book was released in 1991 but in 2006 it was named among the ten best spy thrillers of all time by Publishers Weekly. - Rating: 4 stars
Extraordinary Powers is the second novel and is also heavily influenced by the CIA and the world of espionage. The reactions to the story from readers have been widely mixed, possibly due to the fact that the main protagonist, Ben Ellison, a Boston patent lawyer who was previously a CIA agent has an eidetic memory and has developed a type of ESP ability.
The first half of the novel moves quite slowly as the ground work of the plot is laid out before it starts to ramp up with greater pace. It is a complex story that will ask the reader to pay close attention to the many characters and detailed plot. - Rating: 3.5 stars
The Zero Hour is the first non-espionage book written by Finder. It is a fast-paced thriller that involves a terrorist plot that threatens to bring down Wall Street. The terrorist is a man named Baumann who has just broken out of a South African prison. This man is also known as Zero and is a freelance assassin who has no compunction in killing as needed.
Zero is being chased by the FBI and, in particular, Agent Sarah Cahill, a single-mother and brilliant investigator. The chase ramps up greatly as Baumann closes in on his target. - Rating: 4 stars
High Crimes (1998) has been made into a movie of the same name starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd.
The story is about attorney Claire Heller Chapman whose husbands turns out to be living lie. She thought he as a quiet money manager when it turns out he was an undercover operative for the government. Even worse, he has been arrested for being responsible for committing atrocities carried out while doing his secret government work. He denies his guilt and Claire takes on his defence.
But this is a secret court-martial conducted by the Pentagon and the rules are vastly different to those of a normal courtroom. She comes to realise that there is a top-level government conspiracy hiding behind the case that could become extremely dangerous for her and her family. - Rating: 4 stars
The next book is Paranoia (2004) and it has also been turned into a major motion picture starring Harrison Ford, Liam Hemsworth and Gary Oldman.
The story is a high-tech thriller that involves corporate espionage that pits one company against a rival. The premise behind the story is that a low-level employee is inserted into the rival company with credentials that suggests he was once one of the high-flyers of his former employer. He has been given the task of finding out about the new products of his new employer and pass the info back to his bosses.
It is an intense situation with numerous moments of danger and close calls. It is also a story that hides a great ending that rewards the reader with an unexpected twist. - Rating: 4 stars
In Company Man (2005), which was also later published under the title No Hiding Place, Nick Conover, a company CEO in a small town is forced to lay off thousands of employees making him the most unpopular man in town. He is threatened in his home which leads to a death and eventual cover up.
As with other thrillers by Finder, there is more to the situation than first meets the eye with the larger corporation heavyweights involved in a plot to sabotage the company. The pressure on Conover really ratchets up as he has to deal with an increasingly dangerous and impossible situation.
While it doesn’t quite reach the intensity of the previous couple of books it is a faster paced story that many people have described as a fun read. In fact, the book not only earned Finder his first award nomination but it went on and won the 2006 Barry Award for Best Thriller. - Rating: 4 stars
Killer Instinct (2006) is another thriller set around the corporate world. The story presents to us Jason Stedman, a corporate man who seems to be going nowhere in his job. He has basically hit the corporate ceiling in the electronics company for which he works. That is until he recruits Kurt Semko as a new member of the Corporate Security team.
Suddenly, Jason’s career is on a new upward path and everything he tries is successful. His rivals, on the other hand, are not so lucky. By the time he realises that his new security team member, who happened to be formerly be a Special Forces officer, is taking some unimaginably horrific steps to help Jason out the ball is rolling way too quickly to control.
Killer Instinct won the 2007 Thriller Award for Best Novel and was also a finalist for the year’s Barry Award for Best Thriller. - Rating: 4 stars
The plot of Powerplay (2007) puts a slightly different spin of the corporate thriller by taking the characters out of their big city offices and into the wilderness where a corporate retreat is being held.
The retreat is invaded by what appears to be a group of dump-as-dirt hunters. But it becomes clear that they are ruthless and they are intent and holding the corporate execs to ransom. There is one junior employee among the captives who has the capability to play the hero. - Rating: 4 stars
In Suspicion (2014) the story turns to a kind of a warning about accepting money from barely-known benefactors. The generosity of a rich man causes the recipient to be thrust unwillingly into the role of undercover agent for Federal investigators. The Feds’ hold over him is that if he refuses he will be indicted for accepting drug money.
The result is a spiral into a more desperate and dangerous situation that places the man and his family into increasing danger. The list of lies grows and his deceptions become more risky. It requires a brilliant plan to get him out of the trouble that was not his fault.
The book earned Finder a couple of award nominations as it was named a finalist for the Barry Award for Best Thriller and the Thriller Award for the Best Thriller in 2015. - Rating: 4.5 stars
So, what would you do if you were renovating your house and you found millions of dollars hidden in the walls? In The Fixer (2015) reporter Rick Hoffman faces such a question while living in his invalid father’s old house. The fact that he is an unemployed investigative journalist gives him the tools he needs to find out how the money got there and where it originally came from.
Naturally, when dealing with a mysteriously large sum of cash and one of the premier thriller writers is telling the story you have a pretty good idea that things are going to get tense in a big way.
Finder has firmly moved away from the international espionage stories, preferring now to produce fast-paced action thrillers with plots that require the reader to suspend disbelief to accept what’s going on. - Rating: 4 stars
The Nick Heller Series
Nick Heller is described as a “private spy”. He is essentially a private detective but he is also a former Special Forces officer and has talents in espionage and other special training. He has the capability to uncover secrets and is often employed to dig up the dirt on powerful people.
Although Vanished (2009) is the first book in the Nick Heller series, it is the 9th novel written by Joseph Finder and it is a polished performance that serves as a good introduction to this series character.
Heller’s brother and his wife have been attacked and with her being hospitalized and roger, Nick’s brother, gone without a trace. It happens that Nick works as an investigator with a private intelligence firm and has more than a little experience in tracking people down.
Where it gets interesting is the uncovered secrets about his brother and his work that Nick uncovers as he tracks him down. The story is a fast-paced action packed thriller with a main character that has many facets and is multi-layered, so much so that it is just as well he is the subject of a series of books.
Vanished was a finalist for the 2010 Thriller Award for Best Novel (eventually losing to The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner). - Rating: 4 stars
The follow up book in the Nick Heller series is Buried Secrets (2011) and it is considered by many readers as a stronger book than the first. It also became a finalist for the Thriller Award for Best Novel in 2012 (losing to 11/22/63 by Stephen King).
By the time this story starts Heller has opened his own agency and he is hired by a wealthy businessman to recover his kidnapped daughter. The man is an old family friend and Heller knows the girl very well making the job a personal one.
The description of Heller’s specialty described above – that of uncovering the secrets of the rich – gives you a strong clue as to what happens when he starts working the kidnapping case. He finds that there are a lot of people who may have cause to commit the kidnapping.
This is another thrill ride and although Heller is a very accomplished operator he is not infallible and does not always win every confrontation. He is often compared to Jack Reacher and although they are both central characters of fast-paced thrillers they are also two very different types of characters. - Rating: 4.5 stars
The 3rd book in the series is Guilty Minds (2016) and it takes us into the sordid world of online gossip websites. In this case a Supreme Court Judge is threatened with the prospect of some juicy information being released about his personal life.
Nick Heller is brought in to find enough evidence to prove the story is a lie. In the course of his investigation a murder throws everything into disarray. Suddenly the stakes are raised and not only is there the danger of physical harm but there is also the reputation and livelihood of a Chief Justice is at stake.
The series is clearly starting to hit its straps now. The ground work put in place in the first two books is now paying off and the reader has become comfortable with the way Heller operates. This book quickly develops into one of those "can't put it down thrillers" that everyone is hoping to find. The book has been rewarded with a nomination for the 2017 Barry Award for Best Thriller by Deadly Pleasures - Rating: 4.5 stars