I was excited to have the opportunity to read Reece Hirsch's third in the Bruen-Doucet series, Surveillance (Thomas & Mercer 2016). I loved the geI was excited to have the opportunity to read Reece Hirsch's third in the Bruen-Doucet series, Surveillance (Thomas & Mercer 2016). I loved the geeky, techie details in the first two, as they showed in graphic and realistic scenes how online privacy can so easily be not only compromised but used against individuals. Surveillance started off great: A black hat-turned-ethical-hacker shows up at Bruen and Doucet's new cyberprivacy law firm, asking for help on a white hack job-turned-ugly. When Bruen and the hacker return from coffee, they find all of Bruen's new employees murdered and must flee for their lives, the assassins close behind, thanks to the digital footprints they leave during their flight.
I love this sort of tech thriller, made even better because it's part of a storyline I've already vetted. The characters were as fascinating as I remembered, multi-dimensional and complicated, and the story arc and the voice heavily dependent upon the involvement of technology. Here's a good example:
"...ever since 9/11 he'd felt as though someone had reached into his internal processors and ripped out a fistful of wiring. He continued to operate, but there would always be breakdowns and sputtering lapses from now on."
But quickly, Hirsch turned this bright beginning into a political agenda railing against the purportedly illegal intrusion of government into the lives of law-abiding citizens, propped up by constant references to Snowden (who stole top-secret documents from the NSA and then published them on the internet). When I counted 4 references to Snowden in the first 65 pages, I got suspicious; when that blossomed to 14 by page 156, it was clear that this historic event would be the motivation for the plot. I could have gone along with that if not for the political rants that accompanied it, with Snowden the aggrieved whistleblower and the government the big bad guy who preys on the victimized citizenry. This juxtaposition--good vs. evil, little guy vs. the big villain--is a worthy theme but must be developed sufficiently so the reader will buy into it. In this case, it wasn't. The only way you'd believe the plot would be if you already believed it going in. To me, the story would have been much stronger without the unnecessary drama of Snowden's too-recent and ongoing actions--and it would have earned more stars from me....more
Gary Corby's latest Athenian Mystery, The Singer From Memphis (Soho Crime 2016) is--again--wonderful. Husband-and-wife Nicolaus and Diotima set out toGary Corby's latest Athenian Mystery, The Singer From Memphis (Soho Crime 2016) is--again--wonderful. Husband-and-wife Nicolaus and Diotima set out to provide safe passage for Herodotus (yes, the famous ancient Greek historian) as he travels to dangerous areas of ancient Egypt to research his first history book. Along the way, they wage a battle against pirates, are rescued by triremes, run into old enemies who might become friends, avoid death by a varied number of adversaries, and solve a long-standing mystery. The entire story is told in a modern voice (time-traveled to Ancient Greece) with a wit that avoids what could otherwise be a dry unfolding of historic events.
Corby's historic voice is refreshingly modern and consummately readable:
"Every man, woman, and child in this city... don't want to be governed... They want to be left alone ... Have you ever noticed how cheap it is to rule a law-abiding citizen who just wants to be left alone? I love citizens like that."
One of my favorite parts is how Corby shows that in some ways, life hasn't changed in two thousand years. Here is one of the characters complaining that life was better when he was a child:
"In the old days, gentlefolk of distinction would gather here in our lounge... Try doing that with these new rich. They walk in and expect to be served quickly. They demand a mausoleum bigger than their neighbors, then complain about anything that costs more than a coffin of paper mache. ... How I yearn for those past times."
The characters are well-researched as are the settings and the history. I particularly love that Corby includes Author's Notes detailing the history and where he took artistic license, as well as a glossary to define those ancient words no longer in use.
I've read every book in the series (see my review of Death Ex Machina here) and eagerly await the next.
Note to Gary: I finished this in two days. Can you write the next one faster?...more
"Beijing Red" (Crooked Lane 2016) is the series debut for what promises to be an exciting, fast-moving adventure starring Nick Foley, former Navy SEAL"Beijing Red" (Crooked Lane 2016) is the series debut for what promises to be an exciting, fast-moving adventure starring Nick Foley, former Navy SEAL now working for a non-profit in China, and Dr. Chen Dazhong (nicknamed 'Dash'), a brilliant and beautiful bio-scientist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. When a virulent disease breaks out at the site Foley is working, Dash is called in to unravel its origins and determine how to contain it. What she fears is Ebola turns out to be much more worse. When her bosses try to shut down her investigation, she finds an unlikely ally and partner in Foley. Together they search for the cause of a violent illness that is 100% fatal to those who contract it, not knowing how close to home it will be for Dash.
This is the first in a collaborative partnership between Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, writing under the pseudonym of 'Alex Ryan'. The plot is well-developed, unfolds believably, and is fast-moving and tight. It includes deep details about identifying and analyzing bioweapons, almost a procedural on this topic. The characters are well-constructed and appealing, with lots of charisma between Dash and Nick to make the series even more exciting. Ryan does a completely natural job of showing how these two very different people ended up relying on each other to save Beijing, delving into their motivations and desires in such a way I never doubted it could happen. The setting in China is a treat. It's clear these two authors are well-versed on Chinese geography, culture, and customs.
Overall, this is a winner. I'm looking forward to their next in the series. ...more