Finder's Instinct Dead-On This Time

As I was reading my copy of Business 2.0 last night, I stumbled across an article that quoted Joseph Finder, and I thought to myself, "Hey, I owe that guy a review."

Regular readers of my previous blog may recall that after Finder released Company Man, I gave it a somewhat ho-hum review, mainly because I read it on the heels of his sizzling Paranoia. A few months ago, Finder contacted me after my public yawning and told me.... that he wanted to send me an advance copy of his upcoming book, gratis. (!)

He did and I read it immediately. However, I didn't post a review on it for two reasons: a. The book arrived when I was in the middle of a job change - hence, a darkish period of this blog with low levels of posting and b. If it were my book, which didn't come out until May, I wouldn't really want a review out in February. So, I sat on it, until last night's article, which reminded that May is nearly here.

So this time around, the book is called Killer Instinct, and follows an overly zealous corporate security professional who "helps" a sales manager to get to the top of his profession. Or, to quote Finder's website:

Jason Steadman is a thirty-year-old sales executive living in Boston and working for an electronics giant, a competitor to Sony and Panasonic. He's a witty, charismatic guy who's well liked, but lacks the "killer instinct" necessary to move up the corporate ladder. To the chagrin of his ambitious wife, it looks as if his career has hit a ceiling. Jason's been sidelined.

All that will change one evening when Jason meets Kurt Semko, a former Special Forces officer just back from Iraq. Looking for a decent pitcher for the company softball team, Jason gets Kurt, who was once drafted by the majors, a job in Corporate Security. Soon, good things start to happen for Jason - and bad things start to happen to Jason's rivals. His career suddenly takes off. He's an overnight success.

In a nutshell, if you liked Paranoia, you will think Killer Instinct rocks. If you liked Company Man, you'll really think Killer Instinct rocks. I'm not much of plot re-cap fellow, but if you have ever worked in marketing-sales-security-competitive intelligence-business, this will feel like a kick-back book written for you.

It's not flawless, mind you - Jason's wife, in particular seemed a bit cookie cutter to me - but I'm being picky. In a book about murder, mayhem, sales and marketing, we don't expect the wife to be much more than a prop, so who cares if she merely lives up to our expectations? Chances are, you - not unlike me - will speed-read those parts anyway, just to get to the next action-packed scene, of which there are many.

As a former competitive intelligence professional, I'll also admit that I wish Finder would give some of his "dark operations" work to actual CI professionals. Just as he did in Paranoia, he seems to think corporate security professionals are the areas where the corporate black ops lie. In reality, security professionals tend to be extremely skilled at stopping such behavior, which is different than getting away with it. (Think: Just because we trust cops to catch thieves, would we assume they'd be great burglars?) But again, I'm being picky, not to mention that any suggested acts of impropriety by a CI professional would be quickly chastised by members of SCIP, who might fear that any such misrepresentation of intelligence behavior would immediately be misconstrued by an uninformed public.

These tiny quibbles aside, make no doubt about it: If the "corporate thriller" is a genre, in Finder it certainly has its spokesman, and readers are all the better for it. This is a don't-wanna-put-it-down-'til-it's-over sort of book that's likely to spark the "thrill of the sale" feeling businesspeople long for.

Finder has a clever promotion on his website, offering Killer Instinct water bottles to those who buy 2 copies of the book. He writes, "What better gift for Father's Day, graduations, or summer vacation than a copy of KILLER INSTINCT and a water bottle?" This quote proves that Finder knows exactly who is audience is and what they like to read.


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