2 out of 4 stars
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Final Report is told from the perspective of a disengaged and overall blasé undercover investigator, Jackson Guild. Guild is digging into the coverup of a 2009 terrorist attack on Washington DC that is purported to been administered using new, top-secret American nuclear technologies. As Guild begins his search into the roles of major international powers, he turns his aggressive pursuits into an affair with a key player in the nuclear technology development, Alessandra Almont. Almont is equally as self-destructive as Guild, with the two encouraging each other’s consumption of vices, all while Jackson is not-so-covertly extracting details about the truth from her and her colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Jackson recognizes his agenda – which has been skillfully shrouded by his superiors – and soon discovers his fate. Why would the US weapons labs bury the truth? Who is telling the truth and how can anyone tell? And amidst it all; where can he find a nice stiff Jameson to ease the pains of truth and reality?
Throughout Final Report we delve into the mind of an extremely intelligent, vigilant, and determined investigator that has clearly seen it all before and has become jaded to the world around him. Intensely detailed observations of body language, physical appearances, and overall tones fill the pages, while minimal insights into emotions or details of interactions are exposed, thus jettisoning the reader into the mindset of a hardened investigator trying to forget his all his pain. Jeff Shear effortlessly buries you within this personality and manages to make the reader feel like they are part of the team; with abbreviations, code names, and confidential titles circling through your head trying to piece it all together.
Upon first starting Final Report, I found myself overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation and the sheer breadth of information presented. But I found, however, that this was entirely fitting. Jackson Guild, jaded and fearless investigator, has seen and done it all. He was a near-miss at a catastrophic terrorist attack and, psychologically, this instills a feeling of invincibility. In his eyes every extra day alive is a bonus, so nothing he meets along the way can sway his confidence. This is evident in his interactions with his superiors, ‘townie’ criminals trying to intimidate him, as well as the various members of Los Alamos that seem to know what he’s up to and think they can beat him at his own game. Though this dialogue was often curt and brief, fitting of the character, I felt that there were instances where the author could have developed the story and supporting characters further. Integral characters were often left with a glossing-over in the text, while entire expositions were dedicated to run-ins with overall rather insignificant others. Regardless, this was an enjoyable read with mystery at its core, fueling the reader all the way to the end.
Stylistically, the prose was terse and mature and gave a sense that the author was almost bothered by the fact that he had to put this story in writing. Which is exactly how I imagine Jackson Guild would present an executive summary to his superiors on his investigations. Concise with an air of ‘ask me if you have any questions but you better not ask me anything’ which I seem to find is common amongst his profession. Guild is entirely outwardly focused; the smallest detail of someone’s appearance or demeanor might stick out to him, but as soon as he is forced to explore his own sentiments or realities he is at a loss for words and often aggressively inquisitive in response. Personally, I found these minor details of interactions extremely insightful from a character development (or lack thereof) point of view. Jeff Shear may just be talented in portraying the subtleties of personality, or maybe Jackson Guild is largely based on someone that Shear knows very intimately (cough cough). Either way, I found myself often spellbound by the intricacies of character exposition, and tip my hat to the author on his abilities.
I often found myself begging for an extra paragraph in a chapter, just as a tiny exposition on what just occurred, but was often left wanting. In no sense is this a bad thing, and in fact I would argue that Shear did a great job of pulling the reader through, clue-by-clue, forcing you to keep reading so you might get even the slightest extra detail to mull over until you got to the next big development. I enjoyed this read and found myself invested very quickly, often not willing to put the book down even when I knew I had to. Due to the author’s subjective attention to detail – intense attention paid to the main character with sometimes lackluster development elsewhere – I would give this book 2.5 stars, but having to choose between two whole numbers I will give this book 2 out of 4 stars. I would give it 2.5 stars in this case simply for the reason that I was infinitely impressed with the author’s ability to submerge the reader in a very unique state of mind throughout the duration of this read. However, there were a good deal of mistakes throughout the book that indicated to me that it was not professionally edited, which bumped it down in my rating.
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