Friday, September 07, 2007

Power Play by Joe Finder
St. Martin's Press
New York, NY
Release Date: August 21, 2007

What happens when a group of executives set for a weekend off-site meeting are suddenly trapped in a remote hunting lodge in the wilds of British Columbia? No cell phones, laptops or Blackberrys to be had. Guns have been fired and blood has spilled and this is just barely after dinner on the first night. The fleeting promise of team-building exercises is laughable in the face of this new danger.

Hammond Aerospace, a powerhouse of an aircraft company, holds an annual off-site retreat for its highest level executives. This year, a few changes are already in place, the new CEO is not only someone from outside the corporation, it’s a woman. This doesn’t sit well with the mostly misogynistic executive team. And on the day of departure, there’s a last minute substitution. Jake Landry, the chief assistant to one of Hammond’s executive VPs, is asked to go place of his boss. Jake is not thrilled to be on the trip, and things take an even stranger turn when he finds that his ex-girlfriend Ali now reports directly to Cheryl Tobin, the CEO, and that Ali has come along on the trip.

Debuting on the New York Times Bestseller list at number seven, Power Play is probably the fastest moving and darkest of Finder’s novels to date. Although his other well received corporate-set stories employ the use of a ‘bad guy’; Power Play’s antagonists are as nasty as they come. And the hero, Jake Landry, has past that isn’t exactly neat and tidy. As a matter of fact, when Finder gives us glimpses of Jake’s time spent a juvenile detention facility, the effect is disturbing:

He showed me his bloodstained undershorts, told me that Glover, the chief guard on D Unit, was coming into his room at night. He’d switch off the surveillance camera and do things to him that he couldn’t talk about.

The use of these flashbacks gives an eerie but effective balance to the narrative. And overall, I was left with the feeling that this story will translate extremely well to film. Was it written expressly with that conclusion in mind? Finder has said that he knows some of his books would make terrific movies, but that’s not why he writes them. He feels that if someone writes a novel expressly for film, it’s already lacking something from the start. And the film-making industry is fickle – they may pass on a fantastic project or they purchase rights, but end up not making the movie.

But Finder has had his work hit the big screen; High Crimes (James Caviezel, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd) was released by 20th Century Fox in 2002. In 2004, Paranoia was sold to producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura as a project for Paramount studios. But as things sometimes go in Hollywood, it was shelved due to changes in studio hierarchy.

In the vein of Firewall and Inside Man, the tensely paced Power Play is truly a story that you’ll be compelled to finish in one sitting.