In this seventh installment of the Spies Lie series, a talented young hacker seeks revenge on behalf of her dead boyfriend.
After Charlette DeSpain’s boyfriend Martin Burns is falsely accused of stealing government secrets and meets a suspicious end in prison, she devotes her entire existence to becoming an ace computer hacker and using those skills to clear his name posthumously. Frustrated by the lack of interest in her findings, “she decided to try anything she thought had a chance of working, even if there were side casualties. They all deserved to die.” When Charlette—now known as the CypherGhost—tries to hack and crash a plane containing fellow hacking genius Ann Silbey Sashakovich, Ann thwarts the attempt using her own special abilities. Despite initially being at odds, the two young women team up when the government rounds up computer hackers—black and white hats alike—and sends them to concentration camps in the West (“There are two in the Nevada desert, three in the Utah mountains, five in Wyoming, and one in northern Arizona”). But despite a steamy romance with Ann, the devious CypherGhost may not be the ally she appears to be. When Ann and the CypherGhost both swallow highly advanced nanodevices that allow them to hack from inside their own heads, the stakes quickly escalate. Kane (ProxyWar, 2016, etc.) has produced his most outlandish espionage saga yet, and while one doesn’t doubt that the purported former spy has drawn on some elements of truth for his latest book, it feels much less grounded in reality than the previous series installments. Kane’s novels are always packed with enough terrifying detail to feel at least moderately plausible, if not horrifyingly prescient, but once his all-star hacker team deviates from computers and manipulates members’ brains, things start to feel less like Robert Ludlum and more like The Matrix. Nevertheless, the colorful cast of characters remains as engaging as ever, even as the story goes increasingly off the rails.
Not the strongest espionage tale in the series, but still an entertaining one.