Review By Don Sloan
The Traveling Man, Joe Campbell, and his too-hot-to-handle wife, Tess, are back for another outrageous caper in this up-tempo thrill ride from accomplished author Michael P. King.
In play this time around is a soon-to-be-released revolutionary software, written by a disgruntled developer, Samantha Bartel. She contracts with Joe and Tess to hijack the entire program and then make it disappear, leaving her free to sell a bootlegged copy of it for big bucks to a well-heeled competitor.
But wait. In actuality, the vaunted data mining software is as buggy as a second story tenement in Harlem, and Samantha is just buying time until she can fix it and shoot Leapfrog Technologies stock up, thus saving the company, along with her job.
It’s just the first of many ingenious twists that make this elegantly constructed noir novel work so well. Heck, just the character descriptions alone are worth the price of the book:
“He had a face that was hard to remember.”
“She was blonde with brown eyes, all curves on a dancer’s frame.”
“She was plump, apple-shaped, and the tailored gray suit she wore made her look fat.”
This is finely crafted fiction from a gifted storyteller, and the subplots mix and mingle effortlessly to draw you deftly in, well before your first cup of coffee cools.
Samantha’s nephew Brandon is involved hip-deep in the scandalous subterfuge. He’s secretly stolen a copy of Auntie Sam’s software, seeking to score thirty large ones of his own by brokering it to the highest bidder. But after he sells the thumb drive to deliciously dangerous mob boss Jonny Chaos, he learns that there’s a virus in the electronic soup and has to confess the problem to the head thug. Chaos sics a couple of goons on him, encouraging Brandon to cough up the $30,000 he was just paid, plus an extra $15,000 in hurt feelings compensation.
Meanwhile, there are other complications. Ronnie Franklin, the director of new development for Leapfrog, is playing hide the salami with a woman who isn’t his free-spending wife while scheming to sail off to another company in case Leapfrog capsizes. But before he can make the first phone call, the company’s director of security begins squeezing him for blood money to keep Franklin’s involvement quiet.
This carefully convoluted storyline is a hallmark of the author’s excellent work, and will keep you turning pages feverishly in an effort to keep up.
As the tale unfolds, no less than four of the players are scrambling to either elude prosecution for the theft or outrun Jonny Chaos’ malicious minions. You’ll be fascinated by the Machiavellian machinations of these characters. And you’ll wonder repeatedly how in the world Joe and Tess are ever going to turn a profit from this mesmerizing set of circumstances. In fact, you’ll be kept guessing until the final few pages, when the book closes with a more-than-satisfying conclusion.
And, before I wrap up this review, I’d like to share one last choice turn-of-phrase from the writer:
“They stuck out like missionaries at a Hell’s Angels convention.”
Is that great writing, or what?
Five-plus stars to The Computer Heist. It’s a worthy addition to this excellent series of offbeat mysteries, spun by the talented mind of this prolific author. Can’t wait for Joe and Tess’ next adventure.
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