Review: The Switch by Joseph Finder

The Switch by Joseph Finder is a timely, electrifying new thriller where a simple mix up throws one innocent man into the crosshairs of sinister government secrets and ruthless political ambitions (available June 13, 2017).

Joseph Finder is the New York Times-bestselling author of 14 novels. Killer Instinct won the International Thriller Writer’s Award for Best Novel of 2006, and two others, Paranoia and High Crimes, were adapted as feature films. His newest, The Switch, is a standalone thriller that has “ripped from the headlines” appeal.

As the story opens, readers meet frenzied businessman Michael Tanner—“Tanner” to his nearest and dearest—as he struggles through airport security at L.A.X. to make his departure flight home to Boston. Caught off guard by an unexpected delay, he hastily grabs a MacBook after being cleared only to later discover that the laptop isn’t his. When Tanner gains access to the device in hopes of identifying its rightful owner, he realizes that it belongs to US Senator Susan Robbins—and that the classified documents contained within pertain to a highly controversial and secretive governmental program. It’s an entirely innocent mistake, but one that has far-reaching consequences.

Meanwhile, the senator perceives this inadvertent switch as a calamitous threat to her Oval Office ambitions. Possession of those aforementioned files is strictly prohibited and grounds for severe sanction. Discovery of her indiscretion means certain exposure. At best, she’ll become a lame duck; at worst, she’ll be prosecuted.

Fortunately, Robbins has a young chief of staff, Will Abbott, who has the proper motivation to contain the situation. A new first-time parent, Abbott is already struggling to balance his personal and professional responsibilities, but he knows that failure is not an option. Given his boss’s connections, however, he has a cadre of skilled (if not entirely legitimate) henchmen to call on. But as each recovery mission fails, it becomes evident that he’s going to have to close the deal himself.

The narrative is very much driven by these two (somewhat) ordinary and (mostly) sympathetic men who are unwittingly thrust into an extraordinary situation and the desperate measures they feel compelled to take. Tanner, whose coffee company is on the brink of financial ruin and whose wife has recently left him, has little to lose; conversely, Abbott, whose career trajectory is directly tied to the senator’s political success, has everything to lose. Despite increasing bloodshed—and the eventual involvement of the NSA—you can’t help but hope for some amicable resolution. Given the ever-heightening stakes and the sheer amount of double-dealing on both sides of the proverbial table, it’s a highly unlikely outcome but a desirable one nonetheless.

While The Switch relies on coincidence and contrivance at times, there’s no denying that it’s a high-octane thrill ride from beginning to end. The timeliness of the premise and the overall sense of paranoia that permeates its pages are sure to resonate, given the increasing distrust of government and fear of living in a surveillance state. Finder even acknowledges Tanner’s plight as “Snowden 2.0,” which works as both self-reference and a pointed reminder that such seemingly outlandish occurrences have happened before—and that they’ll undoubtedly happen again. The inside intel on the coffee trade is merely sweetener to a literary libation, boldly served.


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John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.


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