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Company Man    by Joseph Finder order for
Company Man
by Joseph Finder
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Nick Conover is an unpretentious kind of guy from a modest background, despite being CEO of the Stratton Corporation (which makes office furniture) and living in a new mansion in a gated community in small-town Michigan.

As the book opens, Nick has problems galore and it's just the beginning. In the previous couple of years, Fairfield Equity Partners, which owns his company, demanded a major layoff that affected 5,000 workers. Nick's wife had insisted they move to the new mansion after threats to the family from disaffected employees. She was later killed in a car accident. Instead of being the town's blue-eyed boy, Conover now heads their hate list as 'the Slasher', and this has compounded his problems with his teen son Lucas. On top of that, his home's been broken into on a regular basis, and the stalker has spray-painted 'No Hiding Place'. In the last break-in, the beloved family dog was slaughtered, devastating Nick's small daughter Julia.

Conover's old, somewhat envious school friend, Eddie Rinaldi, whom he hired as Stratton's corporate security director, believes he has identified the perpetrator. He tells Nick that a schizophrenic ex-employee, Andrew Stadler, 'a brainiac and a maniac', was suspected by the police of murdering neighbors and is now coming after Nick's family. Eddie gives his boss a gun. The next night, the alarm goes off. Threatened, Nick shoots the intruder on his property, but then panics and calls Eddie, who covers it up. Enter female black detective Audrey Rhimes, who believes that 'everyone matters, or else no one matters.' She has no cause to like Conover, since her husband Leon's lay-off turned him into a surly alcoholic, and she immediately distrusts Rinaldi.

Finder runs two stories in parallel. There's the police procedural starring Audrey, who's determined to solve the case despite problems with prejudice from colleagues and her husband's slump at home. And there's the CEO, mired deeper and deeper in guilt, coping with Byzantine corporate politics and the rebellion of his teen son. If that weren't enough stress in his life, he's greatly attracted to Andrew Stadler's attractive and highly intuitive daughter Cassie. What follows is a roller coaster ride of new police discoveries and narrow escapes. All the way through I wondered how the author could possibly resolve it, only to be ambushed by the ending. Company Man is a compelling read, not to be missed.

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