Joseph Finder has just delivered his second book on private intelligence operative Nick Heller — “Buried Secrets” (St. Martin’s Press) — and it’s a powerhouse thriller that puts its hooks into you in chapter one and never lets go.
Heller is a marvelous creation, a former government agent who has set up his own business in Boston with a brilliant black female computer genius — Dorothy — who keeps her private life to herself but in Finder’s hands becomes a juicy fully rounded character despite her mysteriousness.
Finder draws on his own background in espionage but uses it in the Heller books to probe corporate skullduggery as well as conspiracies that have international political elements.
“Buried Secrets” opens with two underage Boston girls fake IDing their way into a hip hotel bar. Within minutes an attractive foreign guy — 10 years older than the girls — is at their table and zeroing in on the younger and less adventurous girl, Alexa.
A few pages later, Alexa has been drugged and is abducted by “Lorenzo.” She winds up in a nightmare scenario worthy of Edgar Allen Poe — buried alive while her abductors negotiate with Alexa’s father, billionare hedge fund manager Matthew Marcus.
It turns out that Marcus employed Nick’s mom for many years — after Heller senior was sent to the slammer for crooked business practices — and the business titan asks Nick to find his daughter without bringing the police in.
The kidnapping is not a simple ransom-exchange transaction but is tied in with Marcus’ business. As “Buried Secrets” progresses the motivation for the snatching of Alexa becomes more sinister and appears to have frightening political implications.
Alexa’s keeper is a horrifying creation — a monster-for-hire who even scares his enormously wealthy Russian handlers.
Finder has written a number of top notch stand-alone thrillers — including a personal favorite, “Company Man” — but I can’t wait for the third Nick Heller adventure.