Everyone knows I love suspense, mystery and thrillers and no subgenre of crime writing comes with more suspense than a cybercrime caper. Maybe it’s because I’m more than a little tech challenged, but the world of cybercrime is mysterious and frightening to me. And a good cybercrime novel is like a roller coaster ride—a big thrill, but inherently safe. You get to read about the “mysteries” of the cyber world tucked into a blanket in your reading chair safe behind your strong passwords. Ok, maybe the stories will keep you awake or give you strange dreams, but isn’t that part of the thrill?
Here are three cybercrime books I’ve loved—two new and one new to me. All are written by my Sisters in Crime NorCal siblings.
Lisa Towles Ninety-Five—Once You’re In, There’s No Way Out! Indies United Publishing House
And that’s the truth. I couldn’t stop reading. I blazed right through this YA to Adult thriller set in Chicago, or specifically, a shadow world with dark web ties hidden in an abandoned industrial area near the University of Chicago. Transfer student, Zac Skinner stumbles into a scam to drug students and video them in criminal activity in order to blackmail them to continue committing crimes or be expelled. But Zac isn’t going to play along, and at great risk—they’re watching him— he starts to follow the pieces of the puzzle and unravel a web of deception spun by an organized crime underworld. I read most of the night then dreamed peculiar dreams filled with fast-paced action, digital age jargon and shifts and twists aplenty. Just like the plot of Ninety-Five! Towles’ writing is sharp and witty with crisp dialog, tight narration, well-crafted characters and a hold-on-to your hat thrilling story. Kudos to the mistress of the suspense puzzle novel!
Glenda Carroll Dead Code—A Trisha Carson Mystery Indies United Publishing House
Trisha Carson is back, but she’s not in the water. This time she’s landed on a fire road on Mt. Tamalpais in a viper’s nest of cybercriminals—and she’s the prize of their twisted game. Trisha is an open water swimming competitor with mayhem, murder, and bad luck following in her wake. She’s mostly gotten over the disappearance of her husband, but she’s battling PTSD from her last caper. Now she’s confronted with another disappearance—this time the grandson of a good friend—and Trisha can’t let it alone. What she doesn’t know is she’s being watched: through hacked keystrokes, through the handsome new man who has swum into her life, and even her smart refrigerator, Frida, is keeping tabs on her movements. As Trisha, her sister Lena and a hacker who would prefer to remain anonymous, uncover the clues, a scary cybercrime network is revealed. And if she doesn’t stop the nefarious plan, it spells disaster for the West Coast. But true to her innate bravery, tenacious instincts and cunning mind, Trisha infuriates family and friends with her intrepid march deeper into the shadows of Mt. Tamalpais where cyber evil lurks. Of course she triumphs over the reversals and setbacks in her path, and redeems herself with her people. Trisha is a complex, evolving character with a lot of moxie, sometimes too little good sense, and always offering this reader a new learning experience. Author Glenda Carroll asked me to beta read Dead Code and I enjoyed every second of my reunion with Trisha Carson and this suspense-filled, fast- paced mystery. By the way, Dead Code’s cover is spectacular! Don’t miss it. When will book 4 come out?
Please read my review of Trisha Carson’s first caper, Dead in the Water, here on Building a Better Story.
Reece Hirsch Surveillance—Book 3 of the Chris Bruen Novels Thomas and Mercer
Surveillance is a chilling look at data gathering and an un-put-downable read. Big Brother really is watching us. Just ask former cybercrimes prosecutor, Chris Bruen and his “hactivist” partner, Zoey Doucet. The day they open their San Francisco law firm, Ian Ayres, an “ethical” hacker, brings a case. Discredited by his former employer after he tested the online systems’s security and discovered files on a top-secret governmental surveillance agency’s program, Skeleton Key, he’s on the run and turns to Chris and Zoey. But the agency’s program can break any encryption to surveil the citizenry, and after an off-site meeting Chris discovers two of his employees dead and an assassin waiting for him in his brand new office. The trio flees, although separately, on a blood-pumping race to survive, from California to Ecuador to Mexico to Russia evading the grey-suited assassins tasked with terminating them to protect the government’s dirty secret. Barely a step ahead of their pursuers, Chris and Zoey reunite, but there’s nowhere to hide when the enemy can tap into every phone call, email, CCTV feed, bank card transaction, or Internet usage. The plot is non-stop high stakes excitement—not a little terrifying in the cyber age. And Hirsch’s writing is intelligent, gripping and gritty in its mastery of pacing and plotting. But this cutting-edge story is more than heart-stopping action. It explores the morality of surveillance, hacking, and above all, privacy. If you don’t ramp up your personal cyber security after reading Surveillance, you have no one else to blame!