Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Open Source  
By M .M. Frick
ISBN: 978-1-453-71985
A 2012 release from the author
334 pages

Here is a fascinating premise, in this newly shaped world of aggressive social media and instant information exchanges. Suppose, for an instant, you are a special operative for a foreign power—any foreign power. You have been assigned to monitor blogs from various sources in order to determine certain attitudes of leaders regarding the drilling of a new oil field in, oh, Canada. Your employer wants an early warning about possible strikes that could lead to a change in oil prices on the world market. He also wants you to track the Internet conversation about this subject. You have a search bot which travels the world of the Internet matching words, phrases, and collecting data.
Now let’s assume you are a bright and inquisitive citizen with an ordinary job. You live in Georgia and one of your hobbies is searching the Internet for odd events of interest to you. When you find such an event, you blog about it. Perhaps your interest is oil fields. You read open sources on the Internet, construct a possible scenario, just for fun and it triggers the operative’s search bot. That triggers ripples through shadowy organizations and suddenly evil people are questioning how you know certain things and where you get your information. You of course, are merely a bright person raising questions based on  readily available information.
But your connections and your questions on your blog begin to look dangerous to people who are suspicious of everybody. YOU begin to look dangerous. Soon an operative is dispatched to deal with you., an operative who knows how to kill.
My scenario, like that of author Frick, is fiction. But this world-spanning thriller is as real as it gets and might cause you, my gentle reader, to think twice about what and where you post.
Open Source is a clean, well—constructed thriller with only one serious deficiency, one which detracts very little from a gripping, fast-moving story. One of the characters seems to me to have some personality defects which are troubling enough that she would probably not have been hired into the important position she has with a private data-mining company.  However, she is in most other aspects a competent, bright and charming woman who otherwise fits nicely into the scenario constructed by Frick in his debut novel. A very interesting and challenging story, and one which should provoke thoughtful consideration by all of us who regularly use social media.

Monday, October 22, 2012

HEIR TODAY                                  
By J.J. & Bette Golden Lamb
Five Star Mystery, August, 2005
279 pgs.,
ISBN: 1-59414-356-0

Paige Alper, free-lance writer and her husband, Max, receive a letter from a tracer firm in New York.  For a hefty fee, the letter says, the heir tracers will locate a dead relative’s assets and hand over some money.  The dead relative is, of course, a black sheep, the most fascinating member of her family and a world-wandering sailor whom she doesn’t see much of.  Nor does her sister who turns out to be a ten-carat bitch and even more interesting, even though she has only a minor role in the story.

Paige’s sister Sheryl, is a grasping, quick-buck hausfrau who wants to immediately sign away her rights and get whatever small amount of cash is available.  Paige, more astute, more suspicious and less in need of quick cash, declines to sign.  She and her husband, crusading free-lance journalist Max, set out to find Uncle Jock’s money.  Family conflict and some fine spats between sisters is one result.

What Max and Paige don’t realize is that an evil Chinese organization with world-wide interests and tentacles has also been stalking Uncle Jock.  That’s because Jock, incautious sailor that he was, had for years been collecting damaging evidence against the Hong Kong based crime syndicate.  Jock was on a personal vendetta. 

If this all sounds a little like that old comic strip “Terry and the Pirates,” it’s not surprising.  Nevertheless, Paige and Max are fun characters to follow, and even if their dialogue is sometimes right out of the forties, it’s clear they have a solid relationship and are very supportive of each other.  Couple conflict is not really in their makeup.

That’s a good thing because their search takes them from the Far East up and down the California Coast, and to New York, among other places.  They are attacked in any number of ingenious ways and it’s a wonder they make it through even a single day with the power of the huge, malevolent, Asian gang arrayed against them.  They do survive to fight another day and it really is a lot of fun following this breathless pair on foot, on motorbike and by car, train and plane to a final solution.  The book sports an intriguing cover and an awkward title. I confess to not generally liking punning titles, which detracts not at all from this charming novel.