- Book: The Switch
- Location: Boston, Washington DC
- Author: Joseph Finder
Michael Tanner has a coffee sourcing and roasting business in Boston. He is flying back East from a sales trip to Los Angeles, and picks up a MacBook having been through airport security… but the machine is not his. His machine looks identical. He is in a rush for his plane and it is an honest mistake. So his nightmare begins…
He tries to open the laptop when he gets home… and discovers the error. The machine he now has is password protected, but the password is (helpfully) written on sticky note placed on the back of the machine. He opens it to try and identify the owner. He, or she, is S Robbins. He discovers that, but he also discovers a mass of files marked top secret.
Meanwhile Senator Susan Robbins is panicking. At her behest, Will Abbott – her chief of staff – had downloaded the files for her to go through on a flight to Los Angeles. That was something that was strictly prohibited with top secret data. She instructs Will to locate the owner of the laptop she now has – and recover hers at any cost. The mistake has to be contained, or her political future is in jeopardy. Will ‘breaks in’ to the machine and then abuses the powers of his office to locate the owner, Michael Tanner. He contacts Tanner saying his name is Sam Robbins and that he believes Tanner has his laptop… Tanner is suspicious having already established that the S Robbins is Senator Susan Robbins. He denies having the machine.
Will is increasingly desperate, and begins to use ever more dubious methods to try and reclaim the machine. He gets entangled with some very nasty characters. He is facing criticism from his boss, and the machine has to be recovered.
Meanwhile the NSA (the National Security Agency in Washington) becomes aware of the situation – and decides to use it for their own political ends. They, too, want the laptop. Tanner is between a rock and a hard place, with no idea of who to trust and how to get out of the mess he is in. The laptop is his insurance policy. Without it he may well be dead. He trust neither party to let him live once they have what they need.
The story is fast-paced and moves to an exciting conclusion. Joseph Finder is an ex CIA agent and clearly is very familiar with the US intelligence community. The surveillance powers they enjoy, and the way they can make people disappear off the digital map are quite frightening. The scariest thing about The Switch is that it could happen to anyone…
And it is not just a page-turning thriller. There are a lot of worthwhile subplots from the issues Finder faces with both business problems and his failing marriage, to the naked ambition of Senator Robbins, to the poor blue collar background of Will which influences his grown up actions, to the fact that Earle, the NSA agent on the case, mitigates his cruelty with a fair degree of compassion.
Finally, in TripFiction terms, both Washington and especially Boston come through loud and clear as the locations featured in the book.
It is an excellent read.