Joseph Finder’s thriller The Switch has a very simple premise. At airport security two laptops are unfortunately swapped. One belongs to a man who owns a coffee company. One belongs to a Senator. Switching them back again should be easy but the Senator has downloaded secret information onto her laptop and cannot afford for anyone to know what she has done or for them to access the information – and she has also written her password on a sticky note and attached it to the laptop !
Michael Tanner easily accesses the laptop and finding the information passes it to a friend who also happens to be a political journalist. When his friend dies by what appears to be suicide Tanner is confused and wary and hides the laptop, refusing to give it to anyone who seeks it. He then attempts to avoid the people coming after him which is not that easy.
The Senator passes the task of finding her laptop to her aide, a young man who owes his career and his future to the success of the Senator. As the book progresses he finds himself slipping further and further into the murkier side of politics, employing people to find Tanner and then to take back the laptop in any way necessary. In addition, government security agencies know that the information has been downloaded and are making sure that it cannot be shared publically.
This is a fast paced thriller which has at its heart a simple idea and then uses it to explore what people will and will not do for power. Tanner starts the book as a kind, popular man who finds it hard to make difficult decisions and the aide starts as a man who loves his family and wants to good in his job – by the end of the story they have both been changed significantly by events.
This is an American book rife with conspiracy theories about government agencies and their activities but it is actually the two men at the heart of the book that make the story engaging. They are ordinary people who become involved in a situation which rapidly turns into a nightmare. This is neatly plotted and an enjoyable read.