GENRE: crime, police procedural
‘Cover up your webcams…or suffer the consequences.’
He calls himself the Slave Master. He spies on women through their computer webcams. Then he blackmails those who unknowingly reveal their secrets to him. His last victim was brutally murdered. Now he’s targeting the cop in charge of the investigation. To him she’s the perfect prey – because she has secrets of her own.
Let just say from the outset: wow, that was one heck of a good book. I mean … really, really good. I sat down to read after lunch, just a couple chapters. I didn’t come up for air until it was finished.
It’s tough to give a review on a crime novel because I’ll be hanged if I want to let loose with any spoilers. But in the “what’s it about” category, this should sum it up: cybercrime, voyeurism, hacking, blackmail, online porn, sex addiction, murder, infidelity. That is the backdrop, the overarching plot line. But the core of the story is about a women’s self-esteem and self-image, and the dangers facing women of all ages in this era of computers.
The hacker is called the Slave Master, using commercially available software to slave computers and turn unsuspecting girls and women (and men also) into “entertainment”, controlling their webcams, tracking their whereabouts, their emails, just about everything we do and say within a virtual world. It’s all there, and those hackers can rule your life and ruin it too.
The Slave Master targeted detective Robyn Tate, divorced, in her forties, with no life other than the job and no way to fill the lonely hours except to indulge in fantasies. Robyn is addicted to porn, and she sees a therapist to work through her issues. She has a partner, Riley—their relationship bonds them with the ties of respect and budding friendship.
When the Slave Master threatens her with exposure, Robyn is thrown into a panic. She’s on the clock and has to meet the blackmailer’s demands or he will release her sordid online history and the webcam videos of her very private acts. On the professional front, there’s a murder in the park and as she and Riley investigate the case, co-incidences abound; and suddenly Robyn’s problem with the hacker is no longer an isolated incident.
As with all police procedurals, Malicious is a step-by-step progression: amassing clues, following the evidence trail, conducting interviews, developing theories and paying attention to the smallest detail. It’s also a master class in consequences, with this particular cybercrime drawn with chilling precision.
I felt an immediate affinity for Robyn, for the hate she feels about her body image, for the despair and embarrassment that arises because she can never measure up. Then add the terror at confronting the possibility of having everything she cares about destroyed: her family, her friends, not to mention her professional career and the respect of her peers.
This is a powerful story of a woman’s journey to confront those demons, to do her job in the face of almost impossible odds. Riley is also well-drawn: he’s a cop, a partner, and a protector. The relationship between them drives many of Robyn’s choices, both for good and ill.
There was a line I especially loved: describing one of the other female detectives, the attractive one, the one against whom Robyn compares herself on every level and comes up wanting. The author describes Det. Laurence as “…tall, beautiful and confident, with the slow curves of a lazy river.” In short, he absolutely nails the female character, better than most male authors I’ve read. Robyn’s struggles resonated strongly with me. I felt her pain, understood her choices.
This is fast-paced, tight, gripping, and terrifying. It has characters I care about, and a crime ripped from today’s headlines. It’s a 5 Star read.
Mr. Raven has other works out there. And I’m all over that.