Cybercrime Suspense

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!

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A Plague of Traitors



AS MANY OF MY READERS KNOW, I never miss DV Berkom’s Leine Basso adventures. Leine, a former dark ops CIA assassin has become a kick-ass champion of trafficked people over her series, but this book is a departure from her work with the NGO. Leine is asked to train a group of ex-military for a joint CIA op to recover a deadly substance. Created by a Russian lab, the vials of virus are now in the hands of a jihadist. As the chase across Africa ensues, it’s clear that there are more players than the terrorist Samir and Leine’s team. A Plague of Traitors is a heart-pounding, horrifying, page turner—especially after what we know about pandemics since COVID. The story kept me awake after I was finally able to put the book down.

Another hit in the series!

Now available on Kindle Unlimited

The Leine Basso Thriller Series:
A Killing Truth
Serial Date
Bad Traffick
The Body Market
The Last Deception
Dark Return
Dakota Burn
Shadow of the Jaguar
A Plague of Traitors (August 2021)

DV Berkom is the USA Today bestselling author of action-packed, riveting adventure and crime thrillers. Known for creating resilient, kick-ass female characters and page-turning plots, her love of the genre stems from a lifelong addiction to reading spy novels, action/adventure stories, and thrillers. 

A restless soul and adventurer at heart, she spent years moving around the US and traveling to exotic locales before she wrote her first novel and was hooked. More than a dozen books later, she now makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Mark, and several imaginary characters who like to tell her what to do. Her most recent books include the Claire Whitcomb Western Series: Retribution, Gunslinger, and Legend, and the latest in the Leine Basso thriller series: A Plague of Traitors, Shadow of the Jaguar, Dakota Burn, and Absolution. DV’s currently hard at work on her next thriller.

For more information, visit her website at To be the first to hear about new releases and subscriber-only offers, go to:


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Cute Dog Pictures

How can you not love that face!

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The Witness Protection Program Poets Chapbook Launch

You’re invited! The Witness Protection Program Poets request the pleasure of your company at the LAUNCH PARTY for our new Chapbooks on Tuesday, May 18th at 3:00 PM. Zoom Link: FUN Please keep your microphone muted upon entry.

The Witness Protection Poets Chapbook Collective Presents

Lies and lockdowns

     elections and insurrections

uprisings and upheavals

     fires and floods—it’s been a world of dread

and extinction     hard pressed to find distinction.


with changes and challenges 

inspiration    often perspiration

     always motivation—

 this group of poets has grabbed

     the bad

 turned lemons into sweet, sweet      pies.


On Mayday, the Witness Protection Program Poets exchanged their first ever collection of chapbooks. Seventeen  writers dug deep into their hearts and souls to make sense of the world around us—for the happier or sadder, the bolder or the fearful, in awe or anger. 

Take founder Nick Triglia‘s 21 Reasons to Slit One’s Wrists— “2.                    ”  ( you fill in the blank!) in The Backroom of the Believe It or Not Museum of Prose and Poetry,   or  Betsy Roman’s, A Chronicle Through Chaos: A poetic preservation of unhinged history sifted from the debris of Election 2020— “Black lives    white lies    orange skiesperfectly sums it up.  

Antonia’ Allegra’s ConverSAYtions offers clever word play and solid advice: “Considering conflicting news/rushing at us like/water from a fire hose,/take U and E from FAUCETS/to reveal the FACTS.”  Valli Ferrell’s Lens, tells us How To Be Cheerful,  “Do appreciate/ do say it/ out loud to no one/ to the bird trill in the brittle cold air.” And  Dina Corcoran’s Christmas Cards reminds us: “My life is richer for [our] continued contact. . .[they] are treasures.”

The poems  take us on journeys of discovery, of contemplation, joy and song.  Marianne Lyon Travels with Aruba, her Love-Dog— “Come   love-dog let us take a meander. . . ” Cathy Carsell‘s Of Earth and Sky filled with poetic lyrics and refrains transport us away: “There’s music in the wind/in New Orleans late at night/as it moves through the treetops/on a warm spring night. . .Music in the wind/Listen in. . . .” 

These chapbooks offer us reflections on nature. Marilyn Dykstra writes in Full Circle ReflectionsSycamore Grove Park Haiku #3—”Black ashen earth/Soaked with recent autumn rains,/A green carpet sprouts“.  Nathaniel Winters advises us, “Without the birds and bees no flowers appear/food becomes scarce/animals and man become endangered/love can’t bloom” in Art of Living from his collection, Seeking SunshineAnd from Yvonne Henry’s poems and art work, 6:57 AM “The sun rose slightly/ askew/ causing/ for a moment/ the dove and I to tilt our heads.”

Diego on My Mind, Frida Kahlo

“Ekphrastic fantastic” poet James McDonald reflects on art in Visual Language, “Diego the last thought, always Diego/ my essence reaches out/ for rebirth in the rich soil/ fertile in death/ barren in life/ from Diego On My Mind. 

These writings cause us to consider our losses and our longings—from  “Tangential” by Sarah Miller in Off on a Tangent:  “Like the time my hand brushed her hair/ from her dying forehead/ like you wished you had” or, “Give me back that summer/ even the tattling sister/ once a waterskiing champion, destined/ for deep, slow rotting in her bones.” from “Deep, Slow” in Little Palace of Illness by Ana Manwaring, and from Things I’m Wrestling With , “Miscarriage” by Noel Robinson, “Pregnancy loss does not define a woman. It is merely the involuntary actions of the uterus that brings death to the fetus. If the life inside the mother perishes, she survives along with her dreams and hopes. I know, I am part of the woodwork containing the sorrow of the past. . . .” 

Finally, many of the poems, essays, and memoir written in these chapbooks make us look at our lives and into our hearts to know the truth of our own humanity. Through the eyes and words of others we come to complete ourselves. In the words of Arthur T. Robinson in his introduction to Riding the Goat: An Anti-memoir,  “. . .writers of all cultures , genders, and ages have wrestled with the tricky stance of writing. . . one’s past real, seeking out . . .  patterns, and  deducing vital lessons.”   

Join the conversation—come for the FUN!

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Up Against the Firing Squad

I haven’t posted in ages. Busy battling COVID fatigue, publishing a new collection of poetry—Little Palace of Illness, revising my third JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventure, Nothing Comes After Z (slated to publish in early summer), raking our eucalyptus forest and working on Saints and Skeletons, a memoir of my years in Mexico. In between all that, I try to keep up with the outrages of climate change, racial injustice, and American politics and policy. I don’t usually comment publicly about this stuff, but this news bite I read this afternoon on the Huffington Post slays me:

SOUTH CAROLINA ADDS FIRING SQUAD TO EXECUTION METHODS The South Carolina House voted to add a firing squad to the state’s execution methods amid a lack of lethal-injection drugs — a measure meant to jump-start executions in a state that once had one of the busiest death chambers in the nation. Condemned inmates will have to choose either being shot or electrocuted if lethal injection drugs aren’t available. [AP]

Firing squads  as we know them began with the invention of gunpowder and firearms and became the standard method of execution for militaries across the centuries. Although guns are more lethal than ever before, in the 21st century firing squads are out of fashion. Many countries have banned them, and the countries where firing squads are still legal are slowly abandoning them as a form of execution— except ours.

Typically, death by firing squad is a military form of execution, the go-to method of dispatching soldiers. Using a firing squad makes punishment a communal event. The offender is killed by his or her peers, using weapons the soldiers all use in combat, reinforcing the community over the individual offender.


In the US only four states, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, and newly voted in—South Carolina use firing squads, although Wyoming and Missouri are open to using firing squads as well. It’s cheaper and more effective for the sate. In most other US states, execution by firing squad is considered “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore in opposition to the 8th amendment.

My mental image of a firing squad is of the blindfolded captive tied to a stake with a row of uniformed agents of a fascist state taking aim. . .or men, women, and children lined up in front of a ditch. . . or rival gang members slumped against a blood stained wall. A firing squad is the act of barbarians, megalomaniacs, power mongers, not the act of a civilized state. This is one more indication the US lacks civility.



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I can’t help myself! This is too cute to resist! Happy Valentine’s Day to all. And thanks to FUN LOVING DOGS.


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Cute Pet

Cute pets are great inspiration for creative types.


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On the Eve of Election by Charles Bennett


“My two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. . . .would qualify as not smart, but genius…and a very stable genius at that!”
Polls open at 7:00 am November 3, 2020

Another four years? YOU CHOOSE. #VOTE2020

“Nobody can do it like me. Nobody. Nobody can do it like me, honestly.” “Nobody is stronger than me.” “It’s all because of me.” “I know words. I have the best words.” “Our country is being run by incompetent people.””I’m not changing. I went to the best schools, I’m, like, a very smart person. I’m going to represent our country with dignity and very well. I don’t want to change my personality — it got me here” 

“The only people brave enough to vote out this corrupt establishment is you, the American people.”

It’s up to us to save our democracy.

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