Invasion Of Privacy utterly defied my expectations, I’m pleased to say. I’ve tried to read several ‘cyber thrillers’ before and they’ve all defeated me. You either drown in unintelligible geek speak or, at the other end of the spectrum, get the impression that the author know nothing about what he spik and is merely one page ahead in the user manual. So I was cautious; even more so when I read the blurb which suggested several crime-thriller clichés like the spunky woman detective making her way in the man’s world despite the frailty of her inner femininity, blah blah woof woof. By this point I’ve normally left the building and gone for coffee.
Happily, there’s none of that tosh in Invasion Of Privacy. It’s snappily written by someone who certainly sounds as if he knows his cyber stuff but has a sharp enough turn of phrase to deliver the technobabble in entertaining and enlightening byte-size chunks. The heroine defies genre stereotyping. She’s a female detective who is smart, competent and charismatic – and doesn’t have to spend nine-tenths of her time fighting institutional bigotry (although she’s inevitably more capable than her inexperienced ranking officer). She also doesn’t spend half the story ferrying her mewling brats to my little pony lessons, or nursing her aged parent, or being tediously tied down with some other mundane domestic drudgery. What’s more, she even has some pleasingly cross-gender interests which reveal that yes, in real life, woman can walk, chew gum and play FPS games.
Her hacker counterpart, whose challenge to take down a voyeur web unexpectedly entangles him in a homicide investigation, is also likable and credible guy. And they all share great taste in coffee, and reference exactly the right cultural icons. Far from giving up by chapter three, as is so often the case with cyber-crime novels, I found my reading pace picking up as the plot grew more tangled and as the serial killer came closer to choosing his next victim…
The author, Ian Sutherland, keeps the pace trotting along which is an admirable accomplishment given that he’s also explaining some fairly sophisticated web security systems and the concept of ‘human hacking’ or social engineering (what old fashioned conmen have been doing since shortly after Eve made apple pie). So even if you personally know nothing about tech stuff and web bots then that shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment, or your understanding of the plot and the growing danger which surrounds the investigators. There’s also a convincingly chilling villain, and a bunch of other bad guys who bring a real sense of menace to proceedings.
Sutherland keeps things nicely spiced with a couple of raunchy sexual encounters, and the kind of cliff-hangers where you’re absolutely certain the car went over the cliff / the train must’ve hit the girl chained to the tracks… but somehow in the next chapter there’s a rabbit pulled out of the hat. Until you get to the final section, when all the key characters are at risk and not everyone can possibly survive. No punches pulled at the finale.
Invasion Of Privacy has been tightly edited and is pretty well polished so suffers from few of the typos or glitches you frequently find in ebooks (just an occasional ‘wondering’ instead of ‘wandering’. I actually liked the idea of someone’s ‘shackles’ rising instead of their hackles).
All in all this an accomplished thriller; one which leaves an obvious opening for a sequel and I’d be delighted to read that too. Sutherland has a talent for exploring the underbelly of the internet, and I look forward to exploring the dark web through his next story.
Oh. BTW. Is anyone watching you right now? You sure?