I am absolutely delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for the new Jack Parlabane thriller by Chris Brookmyre, Want You Gone. I’ll be sharing my review with you all in just a moment but first of all, here is what this book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
What if all your secrets were put online?
Sam Morpeth is growing up way too fast, left to fend for a younger sister with learning difficulties when their mother goes to prison and watching her dreams of university evaporate. But Sam learns what it is to be truly powerless when a stranger begins to blackmail her online, drawing her into a trap she may not escape alive.
Who would you turn to?
Meanwhile, reporter Jack Parlabane has finally got his career back on track, but his success has left him indebted to a volatile source on the wrong side of the law. Now that debt is being called in, and it could cost him everything.
What would you be capable of?
Thrown together by a common enemy, Sam and Jack about to discover they have more in common than they realise – and might be each other’s only hope.
Well. My word. Who knew that cyber-geekery could be so nerve wrackingly tense? I certainly didn’t expect it but then again I’m used to the normal i-tech obsessed IT geeks who work in my company and they aren’t exactly mixing in the world of hacking and cyber-espionage. At least not as far as they have been admitting on Facebook…
Now I won’t lie – there is a lot of techno-babble in this book. Not enough to push you out of the story but get ready for acronyms and geekisms galore, some of which, like me you’ll probably be able to decipher, some of which, like me, you may not. But for me that didn’t matter because beyond all the tech-talk lies a very clever, very intriguing story and some wonderful characters to boot. Of course you have central protagonist Jack Parlabane, this time trying desperately to resurrect his career by tapping into a new hi-tech digitally driven magazine, Broadwave. They are hoping that Jack can bring them scoops, and he is largely gambling on his past successes in this area to bag him the opportunity. When a major bank is hacked on the day they are set to launch their new corporate identity, his connection to Buzzkill, a computer hacker with the inside intel on the hack, allows him an in with Broadwave, and also sets him on a very dangerous path that could cost him dearly.
Now this isn’t all about Jack’s struggles to find meaningful employment. The rest of the story belongs to young Samantha (Sam) Morpeth. Left to look after her young sister when their mother is sent to prison, Sam will do anything it takes to prevent her sister being taken into care, even giving up college in order to make sandwiches in a local cafe. Bullied at school, there is only one thing Sam excels in, a side of her character which she keeps well hidden from everyone and for very good reason. Because when this secret is exposed she is well and truly dragged into a situation far larger than anything she could have imagined possible. If she is going to get out of trouble she is going to need help. And for that she needs Jack.
Now when I first read ‘Black Widow’ I struggled a little to find any empathy towards the central character, the eponymous widow whose life was under threat. When it came to Sam I was exactly the opposite. From the very start, when we are witness to her struggles to get the simplest level of support from the local council as her sister’s carer, I was invested in her fate. She was a truly empathetic character to me – a victim of bullying, completely devoted to her sister and determined to do right by her – and what we started to learn about her really took me by surprise. But it also made me smile. Because this is a book where any assumptions you may have ever made will be truly challenged, tipped on their heads, right royally jiggled about and then dumped in a heap at your feet for you to try and make sense of how in the heck you ever made that conclusion in the first place. We always like to think we won’t pre-judge a situation, that we won’t make assertions based on race, gender, age etc about what we believe to be true, but fluffing heck, the realisation hit me in the face like a mallet and from then on I was doubly hooked.
I love the way, in these books, the point of view switches from first person in the case of the secondary protagonist, in this case Sam, and the omniscient narrator who follows Jack’s actions, gives voice to his thoughts. Although you might think it could be confusing, in this case it really works. I think to switch between the interior monologue of two different characters would be not only confusing but also extremely limiting in a story such as this. The move between what Sam sees and feels and what we see of Jack’s situation really does add to the tension which builds throughout. Perhaps it is because a third person narrator can call Parlabane out on his quirks in a way only a very self aware man could of themselves, and with his many foibles even Jack would struggle to be that honest with himself.
And this is a tense read. I know cyber-crime may sound perhaps a little hi-tech and glamorous, perhaps not quite so edgy or dangerous, but believe me when I say that Chris Brookmyre has made this a tale in which the fates of the central characters, both Sam and Jack, are balanced somewhat precariously on a very fine and very sharp knife edge. They have to succeed in their quest. Their freedom may well depend on it, if not their lives. Certainly for Sam the potential consequences of failure are unthinkable, but Mr Brookmyre has the odds stack so high against them that it seems almost impossible that they can find any chance of success. So can Jack really tap into his inner Ethan Hunt and pull off a ‘Mission Impossible’? Well… lets face it. He’s not your archetypal action hero now is he, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to read this for yourself to find out.
I thoroughly enjoyed this, savoured every last page. The transition of the traditional print journalism to a knew digital era and they way in which Brookmyre explores the impact of technology upon our lives and the ease with which those who truly understand code can control us certainly rang true. And after spending the past couple of days hearing about the impact of digital disruption upon the company that I work for, it seems even more so now. Data is the new oil as they say and anyone who can channel, control and own all data, be it by fair means or foul, will surely be king. And hackers? Well they have the skeleton keys to the castle now don’t they?
A brilliantly tense, cyber-geekish 5 stars from me.
My thanks to publishers Little Brown UK for inviting me to be a part of the tour and for providing the advance copy of Want You Gone for review. The book was published on 20th April, 2017, and is available to purchase from the following retailers:
About the Author
Chris Brookmyre was a journalist before becoming a full-time novelist with the publication of his award-winning debut Quite Ugly One Morning, which established him as one of Britain’s leading crime novelists. His Jack Parlabane novels have sold more than one million copies in the UK alone. His last book, Black Widow, won the McIlvanney Prize 2016 for Best Scottish Crime novel. Chris is available for interview.
Want You Gone deals with contemporary issues such as hacking. Chris is happy to discuss the ways in which crime writing has changed and how authors must incorporate the impact of the internet on crime in their books.
Make sure to check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour.