Worried about Bill Gates's economic clout? Wait till you read this paranoid fantasy of a computer nerd/mogul who hijacks his own company in a mad rush for the political power to go along with his megabucks. When Sheryl Birch, a computer engineer at SJR DataSystems, accidentally taps into a hidden database and finds skullduggery that she traces back to her own company, she figures the likeliest perps are the Blue Blazers, security goons Zach Massendale and Glen Jaffee. And she's right, but not right enough. Research and Development head Howie Borke, who's always been nice to Sheryl, is also in on the nefarious scheme. So is SJR's chief, Dean Utley, whom Sheryl had thought was already too rich to bother. She'd think twice if she knew that the Blue Blazers had already executed one Chicago cop, or if she knew that being Bill Gates wasn't enough for Utley, who wants to be Bill Clinton, too—or at least to be the power behind the aspiring new President, the treacherous V.P. As it is, Sheryl barely has time to share her suspicions with her cop sister Suze Figueroa before Sheryl's forced into an ``accident'' that leaves her in a coma. It's up to Figueroa, white-collar crime specialist Det. Jesus Delgado, and the few colleagues they can trust to head off the President's assassination, find the weak link in SJR's defenses, and bring Utley & Co. to justice—all without using credit cards, making ATM withdrawals, or leaving any footprints that the omnipresent SJR software can follow. D'Amato (the Cat Marsala mysteries: Hard Christmas, 1995, etc.) sketches her cybernetic Big Brother with eerily menacing strokes, and if Figueroa and Delgado aren't quite as ingenious at exposing the plot as the evil dorks at SJR were at laying it, well, what do you expect? D'Amato's care in making the technical stuff accessible to novices instead of using it, Clancy-like, to bludgeon the gentle reader pays off in a smart, swift-moving cyberthriller for the rest of us.
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