The story involves three people of note: a ‘white hat’ hacker named Brody, police officer Jenny Price, and an anonymous serial killer. Brody and Jenny are both well-developed, free from gender and genre stereotyping, and a joy to discover. The serial killer’s identity remains a mystery until the very end, never leaving clues – other than that he is male and obviously unhinged.
The characters themselves were bold and ‘real’. It would have been very easy for Sutherland to fall back on stereotypes, especially with his main character, Brody. ‘White hat’ hackers of the modern age tend to be spotty but brilliant teens, or uninteresting twenty-somethings with crippling social anxiety. Brody is neither of these things, but he is not a typical heroic figure either. He lies and defrauds people frequently. He’s not dashingly handsome; he’s an ordinary man, but a very skilled worker. Jenny, as a female police officer, could have been a delicate beauty who is kick-ass at her job, or a tom-boy who is… well, also kick-ass at her job. Again, Sutherland chooses neither of these stereotypes to mimic, but crafts Jenny into a believable, strong character who stands on her own two feet, complete with flaws, opinions and a sharp mind. Just my kind of woman.
And then there’s the serial killer…
I don’t mind saying that I dreaded the serial killer’s segments, as they were so well written, I found myself genuinely fearing for the characters about to engage with him. More than once, I put down the book to steel myself for what I knew was coming and, once I picked up the book again, I found myself reading some parts at a literal arm’s length, somehow believing it’d be safer that way.
The writing itself is something to be admired. The characters interact with genuine life, and the description of the action and locations were both likewise engaging and accurate. I am, at times, in close proximity to where the events in the book take place; one of the book covers depicting the street next to an old place of work – which wasn’t creepy at all, I swear. This gave the story an extra dimension for me. I could picture these places clearly in my head, and I could picture the action more sharply because of that.
Marketed as a ‘deep web thriller’, there is a fair amount of tech-talk in this book. I personally found the beginning of the novel a little too meticulous with these types of details, but I am already familiar with most of what Sutherland was describing, so that is to be expected. For someone less familiar with such things, the fact that Sutherland takes his time to explain clearly what Brody is doing makes the book all the more enjoyable: you won’t get lost in the electronic mire; Brody has your back.
The entire story happens within the space of one week and I don’t think I would be remiss to claim it as one of the most intense weeks in history. After the slow-burn, teasing start of this excellent thriller, you suddenly find yourself thrown off the second storey of a building into a free-fall race against time to find out who the mystery killer is before he strikes again. If you like well-written, edge-of-your-seat thrillers, Invasion of Privacy is your next read.