The Finders, Jeffrey B. Burton: A Review
It's no secret that Minotaur puts out some of my favorite titles, so I was thrilled to be pre-approved for The Finders. I love serial killer narratives, and rarely do we find dogs front and center of a page-turner unless it's to further the MC's plot. How many times are characters given animals only to have them killed off as some sort of revenge-fueled action response (I will excuse John Wick from this equation, because it was so well done and heartbreaking, but still).
Mace Reid trains cadaver dogs, canines that are used specifically in the retrieval of dead bodies. When he gets called in on a potential serial killer case and one of his dogs brutally attacks a by-stander, Mace is distraught at the possibility of having to put him down--so he's determined to find out why it happened. Returning to the scene of the crime, Mace discovers the "victim" is actually the Velvet Choker Killer. What he doesn't expect is an outlier, a second player with ties to the VCK, and Mace is soon caught in the cross hairs of a deranged killer known as Everyman.
I stewed on this review for a day because I was conflicted. On the one hand, the cadaver trainer is an interesting take in a genre dominated by grizzled detectives and vigilantes with hearts of gold. I was struck by Mace's love of dogs and his acute awareness that in his personal life, he'd need someone as devoted to them as he was. The inner workings of cadaver dog training were fun to read, and treating the dogs as relevant characters instead of props was refreshing.
However, some things I did not care for, primarily the treatment of female characters. From stereotypes (the constant reference to "lady cops" and the first victim being a drunk sorority alum leaving a wedding where she made out with a former "bestie's husband) to object of affection (Kippy Gimm being used as bait in an interview with a serial killer to get a rise out of his fixation) to nameless sources of evil (the Velvet Choker Killer's sister who is a series of photos on the wall and a sad story) and finally as motivation for male characters to prove their masculinity (rescuing a helpless female victim who is overpowered by another, stronger masculine figure). Officer Kippy Gimm was lovely in her relation to Mace's dogs, but her character wasn't as developed as I would've liked. Often focusing on her sexuality (or her "time off from guys" because of a relationship that ended poorly when their sexual exploits were exaggerated and bragged about) she felt more like a means to an end than a character standing on her own two feet. Some of these are supposed to be Mace's character flaws or the lens of the Everyman, but on the whole, it caused some disjointed moments for me, like I was reading the personality of a 75 year old Clint Eastwood impersonator rather than a young, divorced man who's recovering from a broken heart. I just couldn't reconcile these things. Again, I'm not saying any of these on their own is bad, but as a whole, it missed the mark for me.
The serial killer plot was in line with a pretentious narcissist with a god complex, but not altogether surprising. Everyman was a cool name--it's actually one of my favorite morality plays from the medieval period; I helped write a parody of it my senior year of college, but I digress--but the name itself felt forced. Given by a victim (who again is little beyond a fixation of "the one who got away") she says he's not tall or short and "could be everyman." It felt awkward and forced, trying to make it work instead of just letting it happen naturally.
Overall, The Finders is a great read if you're looking for a dog-forward thriller and don't mind overgeneralized depictions of gender roles and relationships.
Thank you to Minotaur and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.