Saturday, February 25, 2006

Advance Buzz - Joseph Finder - Killer Instinct Reviewed

(Kind of a special entry. I was privileged to receive an advance review copy of a new thriller from Joseph Finder. Watch for it May 16.)
Corporate sales can be war. Sales directors bully. Clients double cross. Co-workers backstab. It’s all in a day’s work for those workaday warriors who must accept rejection as a cost of doing business and continue to ride on a “smile and a shoeshine,” as Arthur Miller once had a character say.

Joseph Finder, whose novel High Crimes became the movie with Morgan Freeman, captures that world beautifully and a bit ironically in his new corporate thriller, Killer Instinct, due in stores May 16. It’s a perfect companion to his previous page turner, Company Man.

In both books, the corporate drama and intrigue become as engaging and fascinating as the building menace and conflict between hero and antagonist.

A call for meat eaters
The protagonist in this story is Jason Steadman, a sales executive for a major electronics company that’s coping with Japanese ownership and a competitive marketplace for its large-screen, plasma TVs.

Jason’s boss is one of those macho middle managers who values “meat eaters,” strong willed and driven employees. Easy-going guys don’t earn his respect. Jason, he believes, lacks the killer instinct of the title.

That’s unfortunate because Jason has a wife with a background of privilege who’s under employed by an arts organization. He’d like to climb a few rungs on the corporate ladder to help regain the lifestyle to which she was once accustomed.

A bit docilely, perhaps with a little willing suspension of his ability to see evil, Jason finds help from Kurt Semko, late and dishonorably discharged from U.S. Special Forces.

Bad luck for bad guys
Jason helps Kurt land a job in his company’s security department. Soon mysterious misfortunes befall Jason’s rivals. Cars break down, appointments are missed and Jason’s fortunes improve even as Kurt puts him on a Special Forces training program that helps him improve stamina and drop pounds. All of it plays out against in counterpoint to military-themed business self-help books Jason reads, by the way, adding irony and subtext.

As he did with office furniture manufacturing in Company Man, Finder blends the double crosses and sneaky corporate politics of the electronics industry into a compelling and deceptively intricate narrative. It’s so engaging it could make the book a fine read without the added, simmering menace of Kurt.

Coping with dirty deeds
Coupled, the parallel plotlines weave a relentless thriller plot with constant twists and tension as Jason is forced to unravel dirty deeds by his superiors and cope with the dangers his friend represents when confronted.

Psychological thriller fans may wish for a little more exploration of Kurt and his motivation. That’s not this book’s focus. It’s a study of Jason, his moral compass and his role in a cutthroat culture that’s in a war zone as hot as some real ones.
Killer Instinct should be on your Amazon wish list now if you’re a suspense fan. If you toil in the corporate wars, you’ll find vicarious thrills as Jason outwits those treating him as a pawn.

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