Toby Eastman, a Vietnam veteran and computer programmer-gone-rogue, witnesses a friend being burned alive by drug runners in the Colombian jungle. Fast-forward to Silicon Valley, California, late 1993: the dawn of the Internet age. Toby sets off on a crime spree – starting by murdering his former mentor, Henry Rhodes – due to the disappearance of a floppy disk containing encrypted and incriminating information. Meanwhile, the tech community is buzzing around two corporations as they battle to lead the way on the Internet Highway. Peter Ellis, an ambitious reporter for the small-time Valley Tribune, is assigned to cover the story. As Peter delves deeper into his research, he begins to uncover a complicated web of corporate competition and murder, nearly becoming a victim himself. Getting to the bottom of the story would be huge for Peter’s career. Can he track down Toby Eastman and crack the floppy disk code before another person is killed?
Price creates realistic characters. The book’s strongest point is Peter’s characterization. We get to know what makes him tick psychologically and are given glimpses into his home life as he struggles to balance a romantic relationship with his driving ambition as a journalist. Surprisingly and a bit disappointingly, the character we are led to believe will be the focus of the story from the beginning doesn’t receive the same treatment. Once the focus shifts to Peter Ellis, Toby Eastman recedes into the background, so the gripping opening scene with Toby in the Colombian jungle seems tacked on. What about his connections to the Colombian drug cartel? How does it really impact the rest of the story? This would have made an exciting angle if it were expanded upon.
Clare Price states in her author’s note at the end that she was a business and tech industry journalist who was active during the period in which WEB OF BETRAYAL takes place. She also explains that the book was originally written and was supposed to be published 20 years ago, which perhaps would have made the subject seem timelier. While Price is clearly an expert in this field, the heavy use of technical terms throughout can bog down the story for readers who aren’t already familiar with or interested in computers, and therefore limit the book’s audience.
While the subject matter of WEB OF BETRAYAL might not appeal to everyone, Price’s ability to combine journalistic experience with imaginative flare has resulted in a largely well-paced and multi-layered story that contains some moments of true suspense.
Reviewed by Kendra Bean for IndieReader.