Picks and Pans Review: Paranoia

updated 02/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Joseph Finder
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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This tale of corporate espionage has so much boardroom skull-duggery perpetrated by such a ruthless gang of bottom-line barons that you might mistake it for the business section of the newspaper. Except Finder's thriller is masterfully told and thoroughly engrossing.

Talented yet utterly unambitious, Adam Cassidy is a young corporate grunt for Wyatt Telecom who gets into a fix on the job and is blackmailed by the firm's "viciously competitive" founder, Nicholas Wyatt. The company's chief rival, Trion Systems, is working on a top-secret project, and Wyatt wants Cassidy to infiltrate that firm and steal their plan. Somewhat improbably, Cassidy is taken under the wing of Trion's kindly chief, Jock Goddard, who treats him as a replacement for a son who took his own life.

What follows is a series of high-tech high jinks, devilish surprises and serious soul searching on the part of Cassidy, whose double life makes him increasingly paranoid. "You have many masters," says a suspicious new colleague. "You must lose track of whom you really work for." There are a few reality gaps for readers to hurdle, but Finder's depiction of corporate titans as duplicitous, scheming villains isn't one of them.

THRILLER

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