Friday, June 30, 2006
Redding author cooks up hard-boiled murder mystery
By DAN BARNETT
It didn't start with murders.
San Francisco-based DelaTek, a software company that employed some 400 people, was poised to hit the big time with a new computer game, a breakthrough in the industry. In the words of DelaTek's chief executive officer, David LaCosta, "We're going after the girls."
The game is called "Whipsaw" and, according to LaCosta, "the main character ... is a young woman named Delilah. She's a spy, and the player can outfit her with different weapons and send her on more than 300 missions. But there's also a full wardrobe to choose from and the player can construct a social life for her. Send her out on dates. It's like James Bond meets Barbie."
The stakes were high for DelaTek. The game, soon to be released, had created considerable buzz. And then came the ransom demand. Turn over $3 million in cash or the source code would be uploaded to the Internet, putting the game in the public domain and DelaTek's stock in a downward spiral from which it might not recover.
Thus begins the newest thriller from Redding's Steve Brewer. "Whipsaw" ($24 in hardcover from Intrigue Press) makes ideal beach reading. The action never falters, the killings pile up and the hero is someone worth rooting for. He's 42-year-old Matt Donohue, ex-Marine, ex-DelaTek employee. He had been in charge of the company's security, but that was before LaCosta had stolen Matt's wife. The divorce was nasty, and Donohue had left the company with lots of stock options and a bad taste in his mouth.
But Matt is drawn back into DelaTek's orbit when a CD arrives at the company and Whipsaw's "Delilah" appears on the computer screen demanding that Matt deliver the ransom in person. Despite his distaste for LaCosta, Donohue is persuaded to make the drop (mostly out of his good guy nature and partly because he wants to protect his portfolio). But things go awry (who would have guessed?) and Matt takes a pounding from the mysterious thieves who get away with the money before DelaTek security can move in.
From there the story gets nicely complicated. Matt meets Kate Allison, head of the DelaTek's network security. "She was tall and slender. ... She looked to be in her 30s, and something about the way she moved made me think she was an athlete. A swimmer, maybe, or a basketball player. I glanced at her hand. No wedding ring."
Then there's Roger Tunney, head of physical security, and Matt's oldest friend, Duke, also ex-Marine, who works for Tunney. "Duke served in the first Gulf War while I was off protecting diplomats" at various embassies, Matt tells the reader. But then Donohue himself is kidnapped by Columbian guerillas. His escape is harrowing. Soon after, Matt musters out and joins DelaTek.
"Whipsaw" features rapid-fire dialogue, a plethora of naughty words, chases, shoot-outs and astute observations: "The two homicide detectives assigned to the death couldn't have looked more different. Frank Kelton was a study in straight lines, mostly vertical. A tall man with a face full of furrows and creases, he wore a narrow black suit that made me think of undertakers. His partner, Lawrence Chin, was roly-poly and friendly, all parabolas and parentheses and pleasant smiles, a happy Buddha in a blue Brooks Brothers suit." Hear the sounds? Straight and tall f's, roly-poly b's. I love it.
Plot twists? Put it this way: If you want sinister set-ups, Steve Brewer is the brew-meister.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2006 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.