A woman delves into the murk of cyberspace to rescue her mentor from embezzlement charges.
It’s 1996 in Canberra, Australia. Sandra Mahoney, who narrates her tale with cool precision, is forced to go to work when her husband Derek heads off to America for a year, leaving her with Peter, their young son. Luckily, family friend Rae Evans, a high-powered businesswoman, offers Sandra a job doing research for the Department of Industrial Relations. At the office she shares with gossipy Bambi and Di, Sandra feels self-conscious and inept because of her poor computer skills and her affection for Rae, whom the others abhor and disdain. The tension is raised by the possibility that the pending election may result in the elimination of the entire department. Sandra finds comfort and a hint of romance with Ivan Semyonov, a Russian-born coworker. She needs this sanctuary when Rae is accused of embezzling a large sum of money from the company, and Sandra becomes a pariah for supporting her. A probably related office crisis involves an unknown hacker wreaking havoc on the computer system. Sandra turns sleuth to rescue Rae Evans from ignominy and prison.
Nuances of the Australian political scene are likely to elude American readers, but Johnston (One For the Master, 1998) has created a tense but droll psychological thriller about office dynamics. Cleverly titled chapters add an extra layer of irony.