Books: Then and Now
Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder
“A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt dangerous.”
Alfred W. Adler
When the first nasty winter weather arrived on Ottawa’s doorstep with its suitcase this past weekend, keeping off the roads was the prudent thing to do, for the safety of everyone. And so hunkering down inside with my feet up and my nose buried in Joseph Finder’s thriller novel Guilty Minds, while ignoring every item on my chore list, allowed me to feel morally superior while wallowing shamelessly in complete self-indulgence. I recommend this mental sleight-of-hand as a defense for any bibliophile who might feel pressured by their friends or family to account for a book-binge.
As a reading experience, Guilty Minds rates right up there with any of the other pleasurable things that you can do with your clothes on.
Settling down with a full-blown page-turner requires certain accoutrements, so in this case I laid in a stock of apples, pears and chocolate, and put a slow-simmering curry on the stove. Then I found a warm place to relax near the sunniest window and let the author’s superb storytelling skills take me to another place in my head. As a reading experience, Guilty Minds rates right up there with any of the other pleasurable things that you can do with your clothes on.
Joseph Finder has published more than a dozen books of fiction, one of which, Killer Instinct, won the International Thriller Writer’s Thriller Award for Best Novel of 2006. Besides Guilty Minds, two other books (Vanished and Buried Secrets) also feature his series character, the very credible private spy, Nick Heller.
I have read several other Finder novels and one of his strengths as a writer (he has many others) is character development. By the time I was twenty-five pages into Guilty Minds I was convinced that Nick Heller was exactly the kind of guy that we all wish existed as a moral and ethical arbiter and protector of the innocent in real life, if wishful thinking could make it so. A person who is morally and ethically conscionable, physically imposing enough to intervene in a scuffle if necessary and utterly incorruptible. In short, someone you’d definitely want to have on your side.
The Providence Journal allowed that Guilty Minds ‘…may well be the first postmodern political thriller…’ and I’ll echo that sentiment.
One of the (many) compelling things that I found about this book is how topical and timely the fiction is, relative to today’s actual political and media milieus. The Providence Journal allowed that Guilty Minds ‘…may well be the first postmodern political thriller…’ and I’ll echo that sentiment. Could this story happen in real life? Anyone who is au courant with the media coverage of today’s political news for anywhere in the world would say: absolutely! The theme of the title saturates every one of the book’s eighty-three chapters.
And, with the very first line, the author strikes a note of suspense that varies in tempo and tone but thrums apprehensively like a cinematic music score through all four-hundred and fifty-nine pages.
“Lies are my business. They keep me employed.”
The action in Guilty Minds all takes place over a whirlwind forty-eight hours.
One of the ways that a thriller writer keeps pulling a reader inexorably through the story page after page is by compressing the timeline. The action in Guilty Minds all takes place over a whirlwind forty-eight hours. Another is by packing fast-paced narrative loaded with tension and suspense into short, danger-flavoured chapter-scenes that end in a cliffhanger. This book gets full marks and a bonus for that technique.
Too much technical minutiae in a novel can bog it down if it is handled clumsily but Joseph Finder has a way of inserting details into the story in just the right amount to get to the nut of a complex subject without overwhelming the (this) reader. And he has drawn on research from experts of the highest order as he graciously noted in the almost two pages of acknowledgements at the end of the book.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads or watches the political news every day, but, fiction or not, one of the things that I took away from this book is that if you are a public figure now—more than ever before in history—in today’s wired world it is almost impossible to keep a secret buried or preserve a lie that might bring you career-ending shame, if even one other person knows about it.
Do not start reading it after ten o’clock at night if you plan on getting in to work or class on time the next day
However many things there are about this book to commend, (and IMO there are a great many) I will issue a word of warning about it. Do not start reading it after ten o’clock at night if you plan on getting in to work or class on time the next day. Opening the cover with the expectation of reading a few pages before going to sleep is like trying to eat just one peanut or jellybean. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Guilty Minds has already won the Barry Award for Best Thriller of 2017. I predict that it is just one of several major awards that this book will carry off this year. Need I say more? REG
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