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In Nachenberg’s thriller debut, a computer-security expert finds evidence that a 137-carat diamond is stashed somewhere, but dangerous people may be looking for the same thing.

Alex Fife is living comfortably after he and his college pals sold their cybersecurity startup company to ViruTrax. Cleaning up a computer from an estate sale, Alex learns that its now-dead owner, Richard Lister, an archaeologist, may have been peddling the Florentine Diamond, stolen nearly a century ago. Alex sees a potential for adventure and checks out Richard’s house, which is on the market, where Alex is convinced Richard has hidden the diamond. But he soon realizes that someone else may want the precious stone (he hears someone creeping around the house late at night). A prospective buyer, unaware that Richard’s dead, sends angry emails to Richard’s account, vaguely threatening the deceased’s brother, Ronald. But what Richard was trying to sell may be about much more than the diamond. The author’s novel boasts equal servings of excitement, suspense and humor. Alex makes an offer on the house just so his engineer friend Steven can pose as an inspector and have good reason to scour the place; Steven hams up his performance for a realtor, superfluously (but hilariously) donning a fake mustache. The latter half of the novel is more exhilarating, as more than one formidable foe is revealed, and Alex, along with a few friends, is indisputably in peril. The protagonist initially is selfish—his apparent interest in finding the diamond is to combat boredom—but his ultimate determination to help Ronald will garner him plenty of sympathy with readers. He’s also a believable hero, not immune to making mistakes or being stumped by seemingly simple tasks. Getting access to Richard’s body at the UCLA Medical School—it may hold the key to getting inside a secured panic room—turns out to be an arduous undertaking; it’s also the book’s highlight, as it features Alex’s grandfather, Papa, who charmingly plays the part of a sickly old man by humming softly to himself. Computer terminology is clear enough without overelaboration, and Alex’s final chance to stop the baddies appropriately returns to where it all started—in front of a computer.

Tackles multiple genres—thriller, action, comedy—and champions each one with panache.
Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2015


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