Ripped from today's headlines (or more likely, tomorrow's), The Finder is a spellbinding read. The key figures in Colin Harrison's sixth thriller are Jin Li and Ray Grant, her former lover. Ray has a chance to find out why Jin Li cut off the affair when she vanishes. He speculates her disappearance is linked to her work as a manager for CorpServe, ostensibly a cleaning company; actually, it steals intellectual property from corporate offices. Among its clients: Good Pharma, a firm generating buzz for its alleged pipeline of drugs "to make the aging baby boomers start cha-cha-ing all over the golf course."
The book launches dramatically when a waste hauling company's truck dumps a load of human excrement into a car full of young Mexican women on their way to the beach after a day of work for CorpServe. Jin Li, their supervisor, is lucky: She has exited the car to relieve herself in roadside woods. She witnesses the murder, then goes to the car:
"She knows that smell from China, would know it anywhere. The public pit latrines in the smaller towns. The holes in the ground next to the huge construction sites in Shanghai where the workers squat over cutout boards. The raw sewage spewing into the rivers."
Intimate relationships underpin the picture Harrison draws of a world made porous by money and greed, where prejudice drives ambition and real estate balloons to absurd heights.
In such a world, the shallow and the permanently wealthy rule, Harrison suggests: "Who else could gouge a hole large enough for five thousand swimming pools at the southwest corner of Manhattan's Central Park, then erect the Time Warner building, a garish twin-towered, tuning fork of an edifice, stuff it at the lower levels with the very same luxury-junk stores found elsewhere, then charge $40-million for enormous apartments above it?"
Dotted with such questions, The Finder is a smart, angry, populist thriller.
Carlo Wolff is a freelance writer from Cleveland.