‘Buried Secrets’ one of the strongest thrillers this year

Joseph Finder’s new novel, “Buried Secrets,” may be the most aptly titled thriller of the year. It involves some earth-shaking secrets and a literal burial — a kidnapping victim who is buried alive 10 feet below the earth.

The ordeal surrounding the burial of Alexa Marcus pumps life into “Buried Secrets,” making it one of the strongest thrillers this year. Alexa’s torment, at times, is creepy and all too real. There are many modern-day applications to being trapped underground (remember those Chilean miners?).

If you’re claustrophobic, “Buried Secrets” may give you some chills. But Finder’s novel is an action-packed read that moves quickly — but not too quickly that readers can’t enjoy the mystery.

Nick Heller is in the mystery business. First featured in Finder‘s 2009 novel “Vanished,“ Heller is a former intelligence operative trained in the special forces who is a “private spy,” someone who uncovers secrets for a living for private entities.

As the story begins, Alexa’s father, Marcus, hires Heller to locate his kidnapped teenage daughter, who was last seen at a Boston club. Marcus is a billionaire hedge-fund titan who saw Alexa kidnapped years earlier. She was soon returned unharmed, but he has a bad feeling this time around. Is this the work of a lone Boston-area extortionist or a large criminal conspiracy that has international connections?

The story takes a demented turn when live streaming video of Alexa turns up on the Internet. A videocam is trained on her 24/7 while she is slowly dying. She’s screaming, swallowing her own vomit and urinating in the steel coffin. She can barely move while her kidnappers taunt her.

Heller gets help from a former lover, FBI Special Agent Diana Madigan, and together they travel down a bumpy road in a dangerous attempt to save Alexa, catch the bad guys and uncover some long-held secrets.

“When your job involves working with the clandestine, as mine does, you learn the power of a secret,” Heller says. “Knowing one can give you leverage, even control, over another, whether in the halls of Congress or the halls of high school.”

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