Cover image of "The Switch," a thriller about a missing laptop

The Switch is Joseph Finder‘s 15th thriller. Like all the others I can recall—I’ve read many of them—the novel pits an intelligent and capable upper-middle-class man against the powerful forces of government or a large corporation. In The Switch, an entrepreneur named Michael Tanner, founder and CEO of a small coffee wholesaler in Boston, finds himself facing off with the National Security Agency over a missing laptop. Tanner is a reasonably believable character, as are the U.S. Senator and her Chief of Staff who are central figures in the story, but I find it difficult to fathom some of the decisions these characters make. They just don’t seem to fit. And the NSA comes across as a caricature, not credible either.

The novel opens at LAX, where Tanner picks up the wrong MacBook at the tail end of the security line—and the U.S. Senator whose computer it is finds herself in possession of Tanner’s. Unfortunately for all concerned, Senator Robbins’ MacBook contains a folder full of higher-than-top-secret files from the NSA. If they’re discovered, her plans to run for President will be dashed. In fact, her career in politics will certainly end, and she may even be prosecuted and sent to prison.

The Switch by Joseph Finder (2017) ★★★ ☆☆

To make matters much worse, these are not just any top-secret files: they describe a super secret program that will cause great damage to the NSA as well if they’re made public. Robbins prevails on her Chief of Staff, Will Abbott, to track down the computer and retrieve it, which requires him to turn in succession to a hacker and a hitman. Clearly, Tanner’s life will never be the same—assuming he lives.

The two men are essentially mirror opposites. Tanner is both physically fit and an extrovert, admired and respected by all, though he is separated from his wife because he works too much. Abbott is an overweight introvert who is socially awkward; however, he is married and the father of an infant. The face-off between the two is thus predictable.

Joseph Finder is capable of much better work.

I’ve reviewed many other books by the same author at Industrial espionage, spies, and high finance: The Joseph Finder thrillers.

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