Jeffery Deaver is one of my favourite authors and I especially enjoy the series of books he has written with Lincoln Rhyme as the central character.
The Blue Nowhere is outwith this series and I was disappointed not to meet Lincoln and Sachs on another adventure at first. My disappointment was forgotten very quickly however, as I was sucked into this tale of multiple murder, which I read in one night.
A taster from the dust-jacket
"Imagine yourself in a bar. A man approaches you. He doesn't seem familiar but he knows your past, your job, your hobbies and your ex-boyfriend's name. You go for a drink. This is your first - and last - mistake."
In this novel, the victims are selected using the information we all transmit into the ether, from our computers. Because of the vast knowledge accumulated on the victim, the murderer is able to get very, very close. The victim comes to believe that she must know this character. You know what it's like - you don't remember them but they remember you? Would you be too polite to admit the truth? I found this scenario chilling.
The cop assigned to the case, Frank Bishop, would rather be working on another, high profile case involving cop killers. Computers are not his thing. Drawn into the complexities of the victim's selection, he is forced to find an expert hacker to help use the murderer's own medium against him. The trouble is, our hacker has been incarcerated for hacking into the most security sensitive sites in the USA. Frank manages to get Wyatt Gillette out of prison for long enough to work with him. But, can he be trusted? Does Wyatt have his own agenda?
And what purpose has Patricia Nolan, lent to the department as an online security consultant? The woman who constantly paints nail hardener onto her fingers appears almost in awe of Gillette.
The plot is pacy, with several sub-plots in the mix, not least Wyatt's wish to be reunited with his wife.
I won't spoil the story for you. There are enough twists to keep you guessing and the whole premise put me off using the internet for weeks. Dialogue, as always with Deaver, is sharp and witty on occasion. But, in my opinion, it is the depth of characterisation that sets him apart from other crime authors.
Deaver always looks into what maketh the man. To the point that I often find myself sympathising with the baddie. The Blue Nowhere is no different. An interesting factor here is the intermittent reminder that the super hackers in the story will soon be surpassed by the talent found in the likes of Jamie Turner, a school pupil. The idea of mortality and replacement is strong. Does this fear of mortality contribute to the decision to carry out these heinous crimes?
As I said, I was rendered afraid of the Internet, however another theme throughout the book is this. It is accepted that we don't really know the people we are talking to electronically, but how well do we know those whom we spend most of our time face to face with? And which is the more scary scenario?
What would you do when you met someone, you barely know but he knew just everything about you. He knew your name, knew where you lived, knew your friends and your family, even knew your love life and talked about things that not everybody knows. He claimed himself as your long lost friend and asked you for a cup of coffee in the cafe nearby, a place you know, would you trust this guy? If the answer was 'yes', then you took the wrong answer.
The Blue Nowhere is a book about the hacker's life. A life that maybe, no one would ever imagine could be. The detailed explanation about what a hacker does in their own secret life and communities. The story of this book blend the high technology, the virtual life, the psychological games and also the mystery.
I like books with twisted plot like this one. It would challenge your mind, and demand your brain to think and analyze. The characters were so real, not only because of the description which were so detailed but also because each characters were presented very humane.
I would recommend this book for readers who like mystery and crime books. Those who needs something to tickle their brain and a puzzle to solve would love this book too.
Jeffrey Deaver is an author who has rapidly gained a following to challenge more established authors such as Thomas Harris, and Jonathan Kellerman. In this latest paperback release, he takes us into the nebulous and rather sinister Machine World.
The main protagonists in this novel are a pair of wizards - brilliant computer experts, hackers at opposite ends of the 'art':
Our hero, Wyatt languishes in jail when we first meet him, deprived of his liberty and of all access to his addiction, the world wide web or machine world as it's known in such circles. Unsurprisingly, he's serving a term for illegal access, download and erasing of some source codes thus contravening the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. However, he is given a chance to redeem himself when he is asked to assist in the investigation of a murder of a web site host (having seen some websites, I do have a certain degree of sympathy, but the perpetrator takes it a bit too far). This murder is only the first.......
Our villain in the piece is Phate, an outstanding social engineer (i.e able to build flawless identities, assume a range of personas, backed up by unimpeachable computer based records) who is totally unable to function in the real world, but is a flawed and feared genius (or psychopath?) in the machine world. Unfortunately, he regards human life as worthless, no more than an extension of the machine world and his actions are based upon a sick online world (Access) in which the aim of the game is to murder, for points, a series of preferably high profile figures, by gaining access to them and stabbing them through the heart.
Both are masters of their, art but with one crucial difference - our hero does it for the challenge, our villain does it because his real world is a shell, and the machine his only real existence. How many people do you know how are online morning, noon and night? You never know, they may have been Deavers' inspiration
There is a psychopathic social engineer out there, bringing death to random online users who are merrily pounding away on their PCs, totally unaware as they surf that their every keystroke is being watched. Phate has created the perfect programme, one that allows him to gain full access and control over their PC - Trapdoor. As with most serial killers, he has an agenda and strikes on pre-ordained days...I'll let you find out the significance of these for yourself. Not only this, but he is a genius at cracking so called impenetrable systems, as is our hero. Of course, there has to be a bit of history to make things that bit more interesting, and this isn't the first time Wyatt and Phate have come up against one another....but who will be the final victor?
Twists and turns
One of the scary things about this novel is that nothing may be what it seems. Imagine someone who knows everything you do, everything about you, your fears, your hopes, your social engagements - this person would have countless opportunities to engineer an a seemingly innocent encounter with you, convince you that you have actually met before and gain confidence. Scary stuff indeed! Imagine someone who could alter any records held about you - the potential for mischief would be immense. Your credit rating? Your career records? Your tax returns? Your criminal (or not!) record? A few keystrokes and your best friend wouldn't trust you, wouldn't know you, probably wouldn't want to know you!
By playing on our fears of an unknown manipulator (ooh errr missus lol), by showing us that maybe, just maybe, the scenarios and situations in this book could happen, and by laying down so many red herrings that even Poirot's little grey cells would sizzle like a burnt out processor, Deaver has crafted a thought provoking novel of high tech murder, dysfunctional hackers and crackers and a thumping good read.
This review has also been seen on Ciao under my name MarkKerr
Like millions of others, I think of myself as a web person. I have at my fingertips nearly all the knowledge in the world, move through virtual playgrounds and visit distant friends with the touch of a key. But, oh! How I fool myself.
I and most like me are stumbling on the edge of things. We ask permission to step on pathways, move through already opened doors and think we are adventurers. But there are superior, nay supreme, keyboarders who will not be led or directed. Those who create their own secret portals and hidden passageways and, with infinite resource, evade pursuit as they seek and explore. Travelling at the speed of light they expose all the hidden places just because they can, then withdraw and fly onwards in pursuit of more. Such are the super hackers, like Wyatt Gillette who mean no harm and only need to know that they can overcome any challenge. But, as in the real world where light is balanced by dark, so it is in the Blue Nowhere. Here in secret corners of virtual space are to be found the Crackers, like Phate, who damage and infect and, when mischief turns to evil, kill.
Somewhere a killer is using "social engineering" to lure his victims. With the advantage of knowledge gained from their personal computer he is able to track, manipulate then win over his prey. More, he is choosing those with the tightest security. Yet this slayer is not intruding on emails, rather reaching deep within the computer itself and, using his own software, cannot be traced, stopped or reached by the finest cyber minds of the FBI. The only man who can prevent Phate from continuing his ultimate computer game is Wyatt Gillette - and he lies in solitary confinement for the peace of mind of the Defence Department. Released on licence, Wyatt flies out into the Blue Nowhere, reaching into a world in which he can create his own virtual step ladder to hidden highways as Phate, recognising his adversary, now has to evade discovery and capture, while still continuing the deadly game to which he is addicted and in turn pursue his enemy.
The pace of this novel is satisfyingly fast and we are permitted to get to know the characters and enough about their lives to care for their welfare or not. FBI agent Bishop, who initially had a more earthbound investigation to pursue and appeared disinterested in the case. Shelton, unlikeable and with scorn and disapproval for Wyatt and his ilk....... why should this irritating character possess such hatred for computers? Assisting with the operation is the unattractive Patricia Nolan, who seems unable to accept Wyatt's disinterest of her. As for likeable Wyatt Gillette, he is the ultimate pale nerd with fingers permanently calloused from keyboarding at 110 words per minute for days at a time, as equally addicted to the internet as Phate for reasons hidden in his own secret past.
As Wyatt and the FBI desperately try to establish Phate's true identity, their efforts are repeatedly thwarted by Phate's partner the mysterious Shawn. Who is Shawn, how close is he and does he observe from within or outside of the investigation? Vitally, what is his status in all this and is he playing a game of his own?
As author, Jeffery Deaver, took me on a breathtaking ride through cyberspace with Wyatt, I realised that this is not the cosy stuff of science fiction or fantasy, but a real possibility of today. The most naive among us are aware that our secret lives whether on our own PC's or on data bases can be accessed by the unscrupulous. Yet what if our actions could be manipulated by that knowledge? What if we could be made to believe a truth presented by another hiding within the intimacy of our computer, a godlike figure who can reach inside us from his own chosen distance? Supposing we could be lured by one who knows what no other person knows? Something which has not even been whispered on email? This is the reality of Phate's control of the Blue Nowhere and there is little time left if he is to be found and stopped.
For those of us for whom the computer world lies no further than just behind a pale screen, we do not have to worry about Jeffery Deaver blowing our minds with technology. I was able to follow the protagonists wherever they wanted to lead me with ease, however convulated the labrinth, as I held tight on to their coat tails and enjoyed the ride. I found this an absorbing, thrilling and satisfying crime novel which at 430 pages was exactly the right length. Despite the flight through Nowhere, the reader is allowed to keep one toe safely on the ground and I think this is one of the reasons I enjoyed the book so much. Another is that Phate is not kept a secret from the reader and we are thus given a privileged view of the cyberspace as well as the earthbound battle.
My title is the apt name Phate gave to the entry to his secret world and the book may be purchased from Amazon for £5.59.
As many of you know I am not a big reader of books, but again I have been astounded by a fabulous novel. Again this is a book that was given to me to read, whilst on holiday. My friend's words as he handed it over where "You'll like this, its all about computers." but this novel took me into a world that I had never dared dreamed would exist. As a young, website designer is waiting for a friend to arrive in a cofee shop she is approached by a vaguely familiar face...and the rest is beautiful crime. Twisting and turning through a serial murder investigation, the author takes us into the life of a hacking wizard who is brought out of jail to help the police try to solve a series of mystifying murders. A terminology guide is provided at the start of the noval for those of you not familiar with the world of hacking. As the story continues it is enough to frighten the reader into checking their own security system on their PC. A compelling read,(I read it twice, getting to the last page and starting again), it is impossible to put down as you become drawn into a cyber world, and you do hope that the story could never become a true one, as it is very frightening, and a real possibility in the future. All in all this book is fantastic and even though I am not a big novel reader I am looking at getting more of the author's titles as his style of writing is magical, drawing the reader into the investigation as it progresses. I would recommend that this book is read by anyone who uses the internet in any way at all.
Lara Gibson is a self employed business woman in Silicon Valley and is 'the queen of urban protection' - she taught people how to look after themselves, how to be safe. Chapter one of the book brings about her death, by someone she thought she knew - a friend of a friend. As it turns out she was conned, a swift piece of 'social engineering' had turned this young stranger into someone she would trust and would walk to her death with. 'Phate' is a wizard, a hacker, a kracker. He has invented, along with the help of his anonymous friend 'Shawn', a piece of virtually untraceable software which allows him access to people's lives - and ultimately gives him the means of taking that life. Gillette is a wizard also, a hacker. He is sitting in prison for hacking into the Department of Defence computers and allegedly running a piece of software that could encrypt their 'unbreakable' Standard 12 software. The police know that the only way they can locate 'Phate' is to play him at his own game and go in through the computer, the only man who could match the talent of Phate is Gillette, and they have to get him out of prison to help them before more people are killed in the deadly game that Phate is playing. The book is very detailed with computer information although for those that are new to computers and the world of hackers there is a glossary at the start to help you. It has all the usual police procedural information you would expect from Deaver, along with the usual plot twists. All through the book you are shown how each character works with each other but also how each are working against the others and with their own motives. At points you would think that DoD and cops were on a different side! Part of the story is trying to find out the identity of Shawn who is constantly updating Phate as to the progress of the police investigation, allowing Phate to stay at least
one step ahead in a lot of places ? I didn?t work it out at all who it was until it was spelt out for me, although with each page I turned I thought I had it sussed. Reading the way in which Phate invades each character's life; it makes you wonder just how safe the world is with everything on computers - no code is unbreakable... if it was designed by a man then it can be cracked by a man (or woman!!). As it says in the book - you used to be able to disappear because there were no computers to trace you - now you can disappear because there are computers to cover up and delete traces of you. I would recommend this book to absolutely everyone, and those who have read others of Deaver's books will not be the slightest bit disappointed with this one, although there are none of the regular characters here (well, I have not read every last one of his books yet ? but none of these characters have been in any of the books I have read!!). Here's the technical stuff: The Blue Nowhere Jeffery Deaver ISBN 0-340-76750-2 430 pages - hardback edition
In the “blue nowhere”, the infinite reaches of cyberspace, the hacker is king. He can go where he likes, doing what he likes. He has total control. No computer is secure from his prying, no user is safe. If you are logged on, he is there with you, in the shadows, watching, waiting. You may not know he is there…not until he wants you to know. When a young woman is brutally murdered, the California police soon realise that there is a brilliant mind behind the crime…a mind that knows how to infiltrate and seize control of any computer…a sort of superhacker. They know too that he has crossed a boundary…he is using his skills now, not just for amusement, but to lure victims to their deaths. They know he has an agenda…their aim is to get to him before he kills again…because he plans to. Trouble is, the only person who can possibly help the Computer Crimes Unit in their desperate search for the killer is another superhacker. They know of one…a certain Wyatt Gillette.But he is currently resident in the San Jose Correctional Facility for a number of computer-related offences. Will he help them? Can they trust him? Do they have a choice? Detective Frank Bishop doesn’t think that they do. He knows that he and his team at The Computer Crimes Unit need Gillette’s help, like it or not. It doesn’t take Gillette long to uncover the identity of the killer…a brilliant, but twisted individual who calls himself Phate.Phate has written a program called “Trapdoor” with which he can infiltrate any computer. Phate is sadistic and cruel…. a man who sees trapping and killing a person as a game. He has to be stopped. But Phate is elusive and seems always to be one step ahead of the cops. Someone is warning him whenever he is close to arrest. Gillette discovers that Phate has an ally called Shawn, who is sending him warning emails, alerting him to danger
. Who is Shawn…? The police have to consider every possibility, even the one that Shawn is one of their own. And just what is Gillette’s past link with Phate? There develops a tense battle for control between the two wizards…Phate and Gillette.Which one is the expert at “social engineering”…getting people to trust you and to believe that you are who you say you are? Can Gillette outwit Phate? Or will he end up as one of the superhacker’s victims, when they finally come face to face? This novel is full of suspense and is very scary. There are a number of clever twists which carry the story along, not the least when the identity of Shawn is revealed. It also makes you look at your computer in a different way. On the one hand, it’s just a machine…. on the other, it could be a way of entering some-one’s life…and destroying it. Sounds too far-fetched? Okay…. next time your keyboard doesn’t feel quite right…or your hard drive makes a funny noise…or the screen is fuzzy…. keep telling yourself that it’s just a glitch. Isn’t it? The Blue Nowhere is published in hard cover by Hodder & Stoughton and the recommended retail price is £14.99.
Cop Frank Bishop is on the trail of a modern day criminal - an arch-hacker who can invade lives before taking them away.