Review of ‘Invasion of Privacy’ by Ian Sutherland

Summary

Invasion of Privacy is a modern crime thriller set in and around London. The hero, Brody Taylor, is a ‘white hat’ computer hacker who, in the course of a competitive hack, comes illicitly upon information about a serial killer. He wants to help the police catch the murderer without incriminating himself, either for the murder or for his cybercrimes. On the way, a romance develops between Brody and the female detective inspector on the case. The events cause him to re-evaluate his career and lifestyle. There is a subplot about his relationship with his flatmate and another about the internal relationships and office-politics among the police.

Title: ‘Invasion of Privacy’

The title refers to several ways in which people can and do invade our privacy, online and off: the ultimate invasion being murder.

Plot

In Invasion of Privacy,  Ian Sutherland has created a well crafted story, with a good balance between the different elements. Invasions of privacy occur in several ways. The writer has also achieved a good balance between the on-line investigation and the more usual detective work. There are plenty of twists and surprises. The beginning, middle and end follow each other logically without too much digression. Tension and action build up towards the end, but with some at earlier stages.

It is interesting to find a detective hero who is not a police officer. Yet the police are not incompetent – just out of their depth with the level of sophistication of the IT issues involved.

Description and explanation

Descriptions of people and places are sufficient, without slowing the action. I am not familiar with most of the locations, but the descriptions seem authentic.

As we follow Brody’s efforts at hacking and at investigating the crimes, the writer leads us through detailed technical explanations of the process. I found this fascinating, but sometimes hard  to follow. It is also frightening. How safe is our privacy online?

Pace

The book is quite fast paced throughout, but with sufficient variation to let the reader recover his/her mental breath, except for some of the longer sections of explanation of the IT.

Character

I found the main characters well drawn, credible and likeable. The minor characters too are generally more than one-dimensional. The writer makes each character clearly differentiated.

Character development

We see both Brody and the inspector go through conflict and change as they react to events and each other.

Language

I found this book to be well written: the style appropriate for the subject matter, and the explanations of technical terms sufficient, bearing in mind this is not a textbook. Not all readers will agree, because it will depend on each one’s level of computer literacy. I think the author has struck a reasonable balance, given the subject matter.

General

I enjoyed Invasion of Privacy, but it is not for everyone. Its strength and weakness are the same: cybercrime is an unusual area for fiction, up to now. This makes the book contemporary and different, but it also makes it hard for the general reader to follow at times. If you can cope with the technical elements, it is a good crime thriller. There are also some nice touches of humour.

A cartoon detective using a magnifying glass studies a laptop for breaches of privacy
A cartoon detective using a magnifying glass studies a laptop for breaches of privacy

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