Finder’s No Endocrinologist, but Rocks as a Thriller Writer

Recent readers of this blog are no doubt saying, “What’s a book review doing on a diabetic athlete’s training blog?” Well, stay with me…

A few years back, this blog was mostly a book review blog. (I realize this is kind of like visiting a restaurant and having the waitress say, “Ten years ago, this building was a pet shop.”) Anyhow, one of the authors I reviewed back then was thriller-writer Joseph Finder, who sent me review copies even after I gave him 1 luke-warm review.

Since then, Finder has always sent me a review copy – I’ve always reviewed him and given him mostly – if not overwhelmingly – positive reviews. In addition, I’m on his Christmas Card list, which always makes me kind of happy. In short, the guy’s a class act.

The man can also write, and at this juncture owns what is best described as The Corporate Thriller. With Father’s Day less than week away you could do the old man a favor by picking up a Finder – Paranoia and Killer Instinct are my 2 favorites but everything Finder has done is better than 85% of what’s on the shelves.

At any rate – last week my review copy came of Finder’s latest work. It’s called Power Play and is about a corporate retreat gone bad. Very very bad. Like kidnapping bad.

Let me tell you about the positive stuff about the book first:

1) If you’re a Finder fan already, you’ll love it. The guy takes us into a complicated industry – in this case aviation – and makes it accessible and cool. Just like Finder’s done with high-tech and office furniture in other books.

2) Relatively cardboard characters but with dynamite dialogue. Again, this is vintage Finder. This book won’t change your life, but it’ll entertain the hell out of you.

3) Ideal for commuters. After Company Man, which some reviewers felt to be a little bloated, Finder went back to the action. This book is a fast read, with very very short chapters. Like James Patterson short. But unlike James Patterson, they’re good. Very good.

For the most part, this book goes right up there with my other two Finder favorites, except for one thing.

This is almost funny – in previous reviews I criticized how Finder handles corporate spies, since I’ve been one. In another review, I gave my thoughts on how he handled office furniture, since I’d worked in that industry. This time around, Finder decided to give a crucial character insulin-dependent diabetes and as someone with more than two decades of injections, I’m more well-qualified to discuss diabetes than I am office furniture or office espionage.

How bad is the diabetes portrayal? Well, it’s not Con-Air bad. It’s not Panic Room bad, either. But it isn’t great. There are diabetic assumptions made that are mostly incorrect. Diabetic situations which possibly could occur but most likely would not. In short, the diabetes isn’t flat-out wrong, but it’s hardly right and in a book where Finder has gone way out of his way to get carbon fiber aviation right, you think he would’ve at least done a bit more diabetes research.

In reading through the acknowledgments section of the book, Finder lists a handful of aviation experts he consulted. The only reference to medical expertise is given to Finder’s own brother who appears to be a brilliant physician, but a pediatric pulmonologist one at that.

The diabetic sub-plot has its place in the story and I’m not in the spoiler business, but here were the diabetic gaffes I came across (and in some cases how they could’ve been remedied):

1) The diabetic is checked for needle marks, but diabetic syringes are so small, they often don’t leave marks. Instead, fingertips could’ve been checked for the tell-tale calluses diabetics get from repeated blood sugar tests.

2) A diabetic needs insulin before bed and when it doesn’t come, claims he could be very sick before too long. This one was off because few (though some) diabetics take insulin before bed. Generally, insulin is taken before meals. And if it is taken before bed, it would be a basal type – a longer, slow-acting insulin. The absence of such a shot would have relatively minimal effects, so long as it was corrected within several hours - not a few.

3) An HR rep. discusses diabetic health-care claims as if they’re so expensive they’d know about them in 1 employee among a corporation of thousands. If a diabetic isn’t on an insulin pump, diabetes is a relatively inexpensive disease, and it’s highly unlikely a diabetic’s health care claims would catch anyone’s attention. Frankly, this should’ve just been removed.

4) Diabetes is represented as “taking time” to control, giving certain characters a window of opportunity while the diabetic was occupied. This – to me – was the most baffling instance of all. My daily care of diabetes – every day – takes me less than three minutes per day. And has for decades. If my kids are trying to sneak one by me, they don't do it when I'm taking insulin (less than 1 minute) or testing my blood sugar (15 seconds).

All of that being said, as a “diabetic” do I approve of this book? Hell yeah, it’s a great read. But next time, Joe, check with your local endocrinologist. Or – at the very least – a diabetic blogger.

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