Published by Dutton on July 19, 2016
Nick Heller is a private intelligence operative. A prominent insider lawyer contacts him because a story is scheduled to run on a gossip website that accuses the Chief Justice of maintaining a relationship with a prostitute. Even worse, the relationship was paid for by a casino owner who had a case before the Supreme Court. Heller’s job is to prove that the accusations are false.
The most interesting aspect of Guilty Minds, I think, is its discussion of gossip-mongering websites like TMZ and The Drudge Report and Perez Hilton that often operate like the modern version of yellow journalism. While much of the reported content isn’t political (in fact, most people find movie star gossip more interesting than smears of a senator whose name they don’t recognize), gossip mongers are easily manipulated for the sake of headlines (or internet rankings) in ways that serve political purposes. Of course, some (like Drudge) are overtly political and prefer muckraking to anything resembling journalism.
Somewhere in the middle of the novel, Heller is able to do something to help the Chief Justice, but the story is only beginning at that point. The rest of the novel ramps up the action as Heller tracks down the bigger mystery of why he was asked to solve the problem.
Action scenes keep the story moving in the second half. They are all reasonably credible, except for a “rescue” scene near the end, where Heller has a surprisingly easy time. That’s better, in my view, than the ridiculous thriller scenes in which one heroic guy manages to take out fifty security professionals in order to pull off a daring rescue.
Characters are not deep but they are sufficiently developed to make them interesting. Joseph Finder always writes prose that flows smoothly. Guilty Minds doesn’t have the intrigue of his best novels, but it’s a fun summer read. (Never mind that I read it in February -- it is always summer on Tzer Island.)