Saturday, April 11, 2015

Book Reviews: Suspicion

by Joseph Finder
This was a very quick read and satisfying mystery/thriller story. A few characters are underdeveloped but fortunately they're not critical ones. I picked up this book on sale. A few twists were predictable; many others weren't. I enjoyed Suspicion. As we have discussed before the executive branch of the Federal Government, via its agencies such as the DoJ, the IRS, the DEA and the FBI among others, has a tremendous amount of flexibility to prosecute and effectively even define crime. Most of us citizens smallfolk do not have hundreds of thousands of dollars in our money market accounts, millions more in stock or bond mutual funds and incredibly skilled, connected and aggressive $800/hr defense attorneys on speed dial. I can't call a US Senator or Cabinet Secretary on his or her private line and snarl at them to tell some overaggressive US Attorney to back up off me or else. So for the average schmuck the Federal Government can bring a frightening amount of resources to compel co-operation. The average person usually won't win fighting the federal government and doesn't even have the wherewithal to try. Do you have $250K to give as a retainer to a lawyer before he or she will even look at your case? Most people don't. Danny Goodman is such an average person. He's a widowed single father in the Boston area who's raising his teen daughter on his own. Danny writes historical biographies. Danny's income stream is unpredictable. But Danny loves his daughter Abby very much even though she often annoys him (and vice versa). Danny has enrolled Abby in a very expensive private school, which he can't really afford. It's far beyond his means but pride and love can make parents do things that may not make financial sense. Danny can't pay for Abby to take school field trips abroad. He's behind on tuition, and it's not the first time.

Although Danny tries to hide his financial condition from Abby, Abby is only young, not stupid. At school, Danny runs into Thomas Galvin, the parent of Abby's best friend. The two men bond together. They have similar ethnic and class backgrounds. Like Danny, Thomas grew up lower middle class/poor in South Boston. 

Thomas Galvin is among the richest men in the Boston area. Thomas owns a hedge fund and is worth hundreds of millions. When Thomas learns that Danny might have to pull Abby from the school he insists on providing an emergency $50,000 loan to cover tuition plus anything else Danny needs. Danny can't decline this consideration because the unpleasant school headmistress is virtually salivating at the prospect of kicking Abby out. Thomas is delighted that his sensitive daughter Jenna won't lose Abby as a friend. 

Upon accepting the loan however, Danny is braced by two officious and bullying DEA agents who claim that the mild mannered classic rock fan Thomas is really the North American investment manager for the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel. By accepting the wired money Danny has just opened himself up to multiple charges of money laundering, wire fraud, tax evasion, racketeering conspiracy and anything else the two agents can find that might apply. Either Danny becomes a cooperating witness and gets actionable evidence of Thomas' criminal activities or the agents will arrest Danny. They'll go to trial where the Feds have a 95% conviction rate. Danny can then enjoy spending the next thirty years in federal prison trying to convince hardened criminals that he's not a snitch and doesn't want to play hide the salami. The DEA agents don't really care. So Danny decides to cooperate. This is no spoiler as it happens almost immediately. It's what occurs afterwards which makes Suspicion a worthwhile read. Danny can't trust anyone. He doesn't know how to plant bugs on Thomas' phone or accomplish the other things the DEA orders him to do. He's a naif thrown into deep shark infested waters. Danny must navigate the cautions of Thomas and his family and the uncertainty of Danny's girlfriend Lucy. Danny's fears deepen when he watches some internet videos displaying how the cartels deal with witnesses. Throughout Suspicion, Finder ratchets up Danny's tension and worry. I would have liked to have seen a few events from Thomas' or Celina's (Thomas' wife) POV. I appreciated the theme of a man who makes one mistake and finds himself being controlled by powerful malign forces. This is more thriller than mystery but if you are a fan of either genre you might enjoy this story. You can finish this book in 2-3 days. It's a page turner. The prose is not dense.

As with the Taken movies I was amused by narrative incidents when a spouse or girlfriend became angry at her husband or boyfriend because he lied to her or omitted details in order to keep her safe (as he saw it). I can understand that emotion but the proper time to discuss issues of sharing, trust and intimacy probably isn't when the bad guys are closing in on the family. This would make a good movie. 
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