In Lord’s debut techno-thriller, a lawyer winds up in the middle of a cyberwar between governments after he agrees to broker the sale of a much-desired computer program.
Attorney Tom Tresh represents shady clients, but he’s just as shady: He’ll find a way to get an insurance payout even when he knows it’s a scam. He helps fellow lawyer Charlie Papadoukas negotiate the $100 million sale of Elidera, financial software for tracking and trading stocks and commodities. Charlie, who warns Tom of the seller’s mob ties, has to pay a hacker to steal Elidera because gangster Tony Antonucci wants to delay the sale until he has legal ownership of the company. But Charlie doesn’t tell Tom that the program is actually a logic bomb that can obliterate computer systems. Various parties are invested, including the U.S. and Chinese governments, and when someone kidnaps Tom’s 7-year-old son, Tris, and Charlie disappears, Tom knows he’ll need help wherever he can get it. Lord’s novel is rife with tense scenes dominated by gleefully unpredictable characters—including Tom’s allies. Former client Skip Williams is a deadly, prolific criminal, and though bar/restaurant owner Meg is a former cop, she ended her first date with Tom by pulling a gun: “You were getting frisky,” she reminds him. Lord wisely makes the MacGuffin something tangible; any copy of Elidera is useless without the USB device containing instruction codes. Threats are never in question: Tom can’t avoid a beating or two, and not everyone makes it to the end. The best scenes take place in the courtroom, where Charlie is being sued by the potential buyer after refusing to give up the codes or return the payment. There, Tom is in his element, convincing Charlie to subvert the truth in his deposition; comedy abounds, mostly from Judge Deetz, who snacks and flosses while court’s in session. Later in the book, Tom unfortunately and too often stands on the sidelines, but that does allow Skip, who comes complete with a chapter-length back story on his law-breaking history, to take over the story. He’s a strong character who’s hard not to love, despite his predilections for violence and murder.
Skip walks away with this frantic plot full of imposing characters. A series beckons.