Book, screen, stage, festival & event reviews.
A really good series thrives on a good character or characters and the trio we got to know and love in “The Dispossessed” is back:
DI Jeff Rickman is handling his first major case since the trauma he suffered in the year before and also dealing with the ongoing family repercussions of his brother’s brain injury.
DS Lee Foster is the one who gets more involved in this investigation and proves to be the character we explore in this story.
DC Naomi Hart provides a perfect complement to Foster, his actions and reactions, as well as sharp tongue in response to Foster’s liberally applied charm and flirtation.
In a nutshell:
We start with a missing person, one Megan Ward. What she leaves behind is so little that she appears to have no real life or history. At about the same time, Patrick Doran, owner of Safe Hands Security, suffers at the hands of a computer hacker, losing a lot of money, including a secret stash that the Inland Revenue does not know about. Then, Ward’s land lady is killed resulting in the return of Ward the cipher, who proves she is both very real and potentially very dangerous…
Ever on the ball with contemporary issues and developments in real life crime, Murphy’s plot mixes modern world cybercrime with the more conventional, dirty and well known type of crime. Indeed, there is something of a cliché within the book, but in Murphy’s hands it is handled very skilfully and results in a long passage of extremely tense, page turning and believable prose. You know what’s going to happen, the victim seems not to realise it and the anticipation is immense.
As for the cybercrime element, I think Murphy was very courageous to use it in the plot. Most of us now have enough of the language and understanding to run a home PC, but there is still a very “techie” side and it’s the complexity of that on which hackers thrive. The detail was just about enough – any more would have led to descriptions that just summarised research, any less would have created a fish net. As it is, the plot is well fed and explained and you will even find some tips in there to help protect yourself against cyber crime and stolen identity. (And if you’re reading this online, this is something you need to think about, so I’ve added some links and info below.)
The skill in this story comes from dishing out a first course of victims only. It’s not until the main course that it becomes possible to distinguish the carnivores from the vegetarians. You’ll certainly make it to pudding and find yourself having experienced a very satisfying and informative read, when the table is finally cleared.
Lastly, having read the second book in this series, Liverpool is starting to come through as a character in its own right. Its past, its present and its future is all there. New wealth and incoming money sit alongside areas for which regeneration remains a dream. I spent a week working in Liverpool in 2003 and Murphy’s descriptions in “Now You See Me” brought back some vivid memories. I notice that at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival this year, Murphy is on a panel “Setting the Scene: The Gritty City”, (Saturday 22 July at 12-1pm, to be confirmed.) I’m sure she’ll have much to contribute, bringing Liverpool even more to life.
Read more about Margaret Murphy and her books here.
The Real and Present Danger of Cybercrime
In the UK, the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, (NHTCU), part of the National Crime Squad, was launched in 2001. A press statement released on 5 April 2005 notes the results of a survey of some 200 businesses in the UK. Using the data gathered, the NHTCU estimated the total minimum cost to UK-based businesses with over 1,000 employees at £2.45 billion. The facts speak for themselves. Of the companies surveyed:
89% had experienced some form of hi-tech crime;
90% had suffered unauthorised access to, or penetration of their systems;
89% had suffered theft of information or data.
But it’s not just companies that are targets, it’s also people, individuals like you and I.
Arming yourself with knowledge is the first step to protecting yourself. A visit to the NHTCU’s site and the page on frequently asked questions, FAQS, will provide you with a long list of the types of frauds and crimes and links for further information, including how to protect yourself.
The NHTCU is also the founder sponsor of “Get Safe Online” where you will find easy to understand guidance on protecting yourself, your PC and your business.
For more information about the risks out there, try this page and then go on to investigate the “related stories” at the bottom of the page. It makes some very interesting reading.
In “Now You See Me”, the novel by Margaret Murphy, which I discuss above, Ebay is mentioned in the plot. On setting up this blog I created a specific email address at which I can be contacted because that email address is in the public domain, on my “about” page. Surprise, surprise! I’ve had a couple of spam emails since then, both headed up “Ebay”, the first asking me about how I intended to pay for something ordered. The second email, I deleted, without even reading it. I’ve never ordered anything from Ebay, you see. This is not to suggest that Ebay itself is rife with cybercrime, but, like my email addy and on a much grander scale, it’s out there in the public domain and it will be used, even in name only, by those who seek to gain illegally. Also, anyone who has suggested, due to their own limited systems, that I send them my card details by email in order to pay for something, has always received short shrift from me, plus a follow up phone call.
I’ve never been one to cavort my email addy on any forums I’ve had the privilege of adding some comments to, either. That’s another open door to spam and possibly, more and greater risks.
At one time, someone alerted me to the risk of cookies. I noticed that some on my PC included my log in name. With that and my ISP, it wouldn’t take much to try and work out an email address. That might explain some spam I received in my main email account.
I make sure my protection software is up to date.
So, back to basics. A good start is the “Get Safe Online” site. Make your online world a safer place. And don’t forget that hard copy things like bank and card statements are better shredded or burned than simply cut up and placed in a dustbin.