The Hanged Man's Song

 

by John Sandford (G. P. Putnam's Sons)

 

(This column first appeared in the January 8, 2004 issue of ArtVoice of Buffalo.)

 

This book falls neatly into the category of thriller. It has the usual unprincipled but highly intelligent villain sought by a still more intelligent, macho hero who is accompanied and supported by various friends, including the expected attractive occasional bed-partner. Normally I would put down such a book after reading a few dozen pages, but for me at least this book had something else going for it. What captured my interest and encouraged me to stay to the end was the fact that Sandford could not have written it ten years ago. Everything here is based on contemporary uses of computers, cell phones and other electronic paraphernalia: The hero, who enjoys the single name Kidd, is himself a computer criminal (Robin Hood variety, of course) who makes his living breaking into restricted files. The first murder victim is a fellow hacker whose files on the lap-top taken from the crime scene by the villain could give away not only Kidd's identity and the crimes he has committed but those of highly placed political figures as well. And the plot involves further hacking into computer files not only of individuals but those of the FBI and other federal and state agencies as well. Sandford, a.k.a. John Camp, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, knows computers and has used this knowledge effectively in this fast-paced but farfetched story. In this last characteristic it fits well with other modern thrillers.