This is the first of Joseph Finder’s novels that we’ve read – but it won’t be the last.
Alexa Marcus is a troubled teen; her father is an obscure presence in her life, whilst she wishes the same could be said of her new stepmother. Her father’s billions couldn’t stop her from ending up in a specialist reform school and it is here that she falls in with new BFF, Taylor Armstrong. A girls’ night out at the hippest club in town is just what both girls need to blow off some steam and when the gorgeous ‘Lorenzo’ makes a move on Alexa, Taylor is only too happy to step aside. And then Alexa wakes up in a coffin with a voice telling her she has been buried alive.
Enter Nick Heller, a beefcake with a brain and enough owed favours and contacts to enable him to find a needle in a haystack. Marshall Marcus happens to be an old friend and Heller is particularly fond of Alexa – which helps, considering that Marshall appears to be blocking Heller’s attempts to help him find his daughter. The abductor is asking for ‘Mercury’, but Marshall isn’t playing and Heller has to dig deeper into his friend’s life in order to find the truth: Marshall is flat broke and indebted to many of the world’s most dangerous criminals…but which one has Alexa?
Buried Secrets is superb in almost every conceivable way. Heller is self-deprecating but not in an ostentatious way that makes this appear superficial. He has the required brawn to get down and dirty with the bad guys, but it’s his intellect and emotional capacity that makes him more rounded and real than the usual gun-hoe type. Finder clearly did a lot of research to ensure the detail is accurate, especially important in this genre – it’s an unforgiving audience for anything slapdash. The sociopath responsible for burying Alexa alive is disturbing in the extreme and makes you feel like your insides are curdling – in fact, even contemplating that there might be human beings out there capable of such emotionless, pitiless violence, is frankly terrifying.
Delivered with panache, well-timed wit and above all a flair for sending chills down the spine – Finder is a real find. For those who like their thrillers intelligent but with a bite, look no further. There are many blindingly obvious reasons why Finder is too good to put down, but right up at the top is the undeniable fact that Heller is the hero minus the All-American cliché. Thoroughly entertaining.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012