Recruited and led by Declan, the kind of happy warrior who makes risk part of the fun, this information-age gang of five has done very well over the years. Larger than life, yes, but smart withal, Declan has an unerring instinct for talent: Bobby and Latin Mike, seasoned and tough, are thoroughly professional; Dennis is on a fast track to the hackers’ hall of fame; slinky Valerie can seduce a statue. And then there’s Carr, with “an engineer’s eye for operations," the last to be recruited. Carr stifles all emotion, as if not to do so were to give an essentially hostile world an unwarranted edge. But this ex-CIA officer can be explosive. He is where he is now—a thief among thieves—because in a temper-tossed moment he punched out someone he absolutely shouldn’t have. And tightly wrapped Carr is surprisingly susceptible. Valerie quickly has him off balance. Success, once almost a given, has now become unsettlingly unpredictable, a situation greatly intensified by the sudden loss of their leader. Carr attempts to fill the vacuum, but with only limited effectiveness. Operations are one kind of thing, he learns, charisma quite another. Sniping develops, smoldering enmities flare up and flicker out, but all recognize that something inimical has sunk roots in their thieves’ den. One last job then, a big one, computer centered and extremely dangerous. Pull it off and they go home rich. Screw it up and maybe they don’t go home at all.
Character-driven with a protagonist as enigmatic as he is compelling. But what really sets this apart is the quality of Spiegelman’s writing: “Backlit on the 14th tee, Mr. Boyce is a slab of granite escaped from the quarry, or spare parts from Stonehenge.” It’s not every day genre prose gets that kind of polish (Red Cat, 2007, etc.).