Maybe I’ve been jaded by the intricacies of Michael Connelly or Don Winslow, but I’ve got to side with the 7 percent of the three-star Amazon reviewers who place Joseph Finder’s “House on Fire” squarely in the middle between “I read until my eyes wouldn’t stay open any longer” and “definitely not up to Finder’s standards.”
True, Finder is a bonafide New York Times best-selling author, and so the nearly 70 percent five-star reviews for “House on Fire” (Dutton) are likely legit and fiercely earned.
And admittedly, they’re also deserved — if you’re looking for the literary equivalent of a popcorn movie. But even at that, fast-pacing, cool spy toys and a topical subject — bringing down Big Pharma for engineering the opioid crisis — bounce against too many deus ex machina solutions, characters that shy from full development and a plot that plods on predictable terrain.
What it comes down to with this fourth-in-the-series Nick Heller novel is how you’re feeling to be medicated at the moment — a page-turner that requires a healthy suspension of disbelief, or a plot that gets to the end with plausibility intact.
If the former, you’re in good company. Reviewers ranging from The Times of London to the Cleveland Plain Dealer lit up their literary abodes for “House on Fire” with glowing accolades.
If the latter, try Bosch or Keller. Those two Heller contemporaries will not only have the right prescription for what ails you, you won't feel like you just ate a jumbo-sized cup of kernels with extra butter after turning the final page.