Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Joseph Finder: Killer Instinct

I like Joseph Finder because he writes about the corporate world. Although it’s not quite the same corporate world I remember. I found a copy of Killer Instinct on a discount table and bought it.

We meet Jason Steadman, a district sales manager for Entronics, a company that makes flat screen TVs of all sizes. He likes what he does, and is good at it. He has reached a plateau in his career and seems reasonably content. But his wife was raised in an “old but gone money” family, and would like some of the better things back in her life. So when a VP of Sales position opens up, she pushes him to try for it.

Jason meets Kurt Semco, an ex-Special Forces guy, driving a tow truck. One thing leads to another and Jason gets Kurt a job in corporate security, mainly because they need a good pitcher on the company softball team.

Kurt adopts Jason as his new best buddy, and will do anything for him. The problem is with how far “anything” goes. At first Kurt uses his Special Forces contacts to get Jason some inside information to help him close important deals. And, interestingly, at the same time some important deals for Jason’s main competitors for the VP job fall through at the last minute.

Kent “Gordy” Gordon is the Senior VP over the entire sales division. If, well actually when, Jason gets the VP job, he reports to Gordy. And Gordy is a jerk. A lot of the book deals with Jason trying to be true to his own beliefs while dealing with Gordy’s demands.

Jason enjoys the perks and salary of his new role, but begins to realize that he got where he is with more help than he wants from Kurt. But he is still tempted to use Kurt’s help on key deals. Ultimately he understands that Kurt is way out of bounds and needs to be stopped. But Kurt is much worse as an enemy than as a friend. The plot thickens....

Jason is mostly a likeable character. That’s not always a given with Finder’s books. Kurt is a little over the top in his abilities and resources. He seems a bit too omnipotent. That helps the plot line, but at a cost in believability.

Killer Instinct takes a business cliché and pushes it to a literal definition. The result is not pretty from the perspective of working for Entronics. But for the reader, the result is a fast paced thriller set in corporate America.

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