I’m sort of like Death’s GPS. — Finn Harding
Finn “Mr. Finn” Harding has a unique talent for finding people, even those who desperately don’t want to be found. Unfortunately for the people he locates, once he finds them they’re usually never seen again—hence, Death’s GPS.
Once a legit, licensed private investigator, Finn strayed a little too far over the line into murky ethical waters during an assignment for a client and had his license revoked by the state of Ohio. Now, he’s been reduced to working for people who not only don’t care he doesn’t have a license, they kinda prefer it given they work outside the law themselves.
When Bishop, the owner of an underground website called Dark Brokerage that traffics in stolen sensitive and financial information, becomes the target of a blackmailer who hacked the site, Finn is hired to locate the source blackmail. Easy enough, it’s Finn’s speciality after all.
Except, once Finn locates the blackmailer it doesn’t end there. Bishop persuades Finn to accompany fix-it man Little Freddie to…take care of the problem. Little Freddie will do all the heavy lifting, Finn is assured, he’ll just be along for the ride as backup. Right.
Though the task doesn’t go quite as planned, Finn gets more involved than he’d prefer, he and Freddie are successful, leading to an offer of more work for Finn from Bishop. Against his better judgment, Finn finds himself getting pulled farther and farther down a path he knows it’s not safe to be walking.
Already aware he was in dangerous territory, Finn gets a serious wake-up call when representatives from the FBI’s Cybercrime Unit come knocking. Not only do they know about Dark Brokerage, they were actively working a way in for a bust—until Finn showed up and inadvertently blew their operation. Not willing to watch all their hard work slip away, the FBI puts the screws to Finn to work for them. Finn’s situation goes from bad to worse when Bishop’s boss, a heavy hitter in the Detroit mob, stakes his claim in the matter, putting Finn in the middle of a three-way tug-of-war for his service, with each party wielding their own big stick to get his cooperation—death threats from Bishop and Detroit, promises of serious prison time from the FBI.
Now, the man who’s best at finding people needs to disappear himself, at least until he can figure out a play that doesn’t end up with him dead or in a cell.
The Shadow Broker, first in the Mr. Finn series from author Trace Conger, is a wonderful mix of setting, action and character. The majority of the story unfolds in Cincinnati, where Finn lives on the Ohio River in a houseboat that’s seen better days. It’s only temporary though, something he keeps telling both himself and his ex-wife and young daughter. It’s Finn’s love for his daughter and wanting to provide for her that drives him to make most of the bad decisions he does, which makes his otherwise questionable morals and seriously bad choices somewhat understandable.
Unfortunately, having people around him he cares for deeply also raises the stakes on the danger Finn finds himself in, as loved ones make for good leverage. Knowing this, Finn takes the action on the road, with Conger writing some wonderfully atmospheric scenes that unfold in the woods of Maine, a place Finn knows from his childhood and where his grandfather owned a cabin on a small, remote island. Once there, Finn learns some secrets from his family’s past may help solve his current problems…and carry him into the future.
From start to finish, the dialogue in The Shadow Broker is crisp and no-nonsense, with Finn demonstrating a particularly sarcastic tongue as a defense mechanism, often at the most inappropriate times—like when being tortured. Speaking of which, The Shadow Broker is most definitely not a cozy. Far from taking place offstage, the violence is both front and center as well as depicted in blunt, graphic terms. Conger wants to be sure neither Finn nor the reader have any illusions about what’s at stake if he fails.
In for a penny, in for a pound—if Finn is ever going to have a chance of walking in the light again, he’s going to have to crawl through the shadows first.