@@@ (3 out of 5)
For years I’ve been a big fan of Joseph Finder’s work. He has written a slew of excellent crime novels over the years. (Buried Secrets and Paranoia were two of my favorites.) But The Fixer doesn’t measure up — it’s good, but far from great.
The story begins auspiciously when Rick Hoffman stumbles across a huge pile of cash behind a wall while renovating his father’s house. $3.4 million, in fact. The cash leads to questions about the old man’s work as a lawyer. Rick and his sister, Wendy, had always known Leonard as a defense attorney for small-time porn purveyors, drug dealers, and other assorted scumbags. Clearly, though, the pile of cash suggests Leonard was involved in something bigger. Rick, an investigative reporter who was fired from his last job, determines to find out for himself what nefarious business the old man was engaged in. By himself, of course!
Through ups and downs, Rick’s solo investigation brings him into contact with a rogue’s gallery of malefactors, from ex-soldiers for the Provisional IRA to crooked contractors and shady PR people. He uncovers a terrible crime committed in the construction of the Big Dig, the gargantuan subterranean highway project that transformed Boston a generation ago. He also reconnects with an old flame he dumped when he left high school.
There are flashes of the old Finder in this novel. For example, he writes, “Investigative journalism wasn’t like meeting Deep Throat in a parking garage. It was like mining for gold. You dug and dug, past the topsoil, down to the mineral layer, then you blasted the rock apart using explosives, then you trucked the rocks somewhere else to crush and process, and for every ton of rocks you went through, you’d get maybe five grams of gold. [Rick] was still digging into the topsoil.”
Unfortunately, the ending of The Fixer becomes obvious after a time, and Rick is an idiot who repeatedly gets himself beaten up unnecessarily. I found myself gritting my teeth every time I read that Rick was setting out to meet with another one of the heartless criminals who were responsible for the terrible crimes that came to light in his investigation.
If you’re hard up for something to read, and it must be a crime novel, then The Fixer might do the trick for you. But there are better options.