A political thriller penned in “cozy” mode (no profanity, no sex scenes) by retired Government of Canada employee (and award-winning author) Barry Finlay is actually #3 in the Marcie Kane series of thrillers. While I have not read the previous two installments, I found that not knowing her backstory in no way hampered my enjoyment of this book. The action begins almost immediately and the implications are profound: Annie Logan, the wife of the President’s Cheif of Staff has been hacked by a professional hired by a Chinese businessman and a government official (unbeknownst to each other) to help defeat a Presidental order to put in force steep tariffs on imported Chinese goods. The President is modelled after Mr. Trump and does what he wants, ignoring his advisors. Marcie (and her new fiancee Nathan Harris, an FBI consultant) get involved, and as they try and discover who the hacker is, things begin to spiral out of control on both sides of the planet, until the showdown occurs at a presidential rally in Florida.
What is quite interesting in the story is how the hacker gains access to an average person’s computer posing as a “friend” on Facebook. He sends her an animated GIF to click on, then a ZIP file with a hidden executable that allows him full access to her PC, including her passwords, banking information and so on. She watches horrified as the mouse cursor moves on its own, opening a word processing document and displaying messages to her. Basically, like blackmail. It is a good reminder to check security settings, and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know, and likewise clicking on emails with attachments from people you don’t know.
The most interesting character development in Remote Access is that of Yang Lee, the accomplished hacker. While undoubtedly smart, he lets pride cloud his judgment which eventually leads him to failure. His employers are disappointed that he cannot get results as swiftly as he promised.
I was curious as to why Mr. Finlay chose to use a female as his main character. He told me:
“I decided to go initially with a female protagonist because I like reading novels with strong, yet vulnerable female leads. One of my main goals in writing fiction is to write about characters and the situation they find themselves as realistically as possible. A strong female character with a good sense of humour and maybe a reckless side allowed me to do that. I think the latter characteristic is more evident in A Perilous Question. Marcie is not Superwoman. She has learned to be strong and independent, but she makes mistakes as anyone does and that helps to move the stories forward and I hope adds interest and realism for the reader. I’ve borrowed many of Marcie’s characteristics from strong, independent women I’ve met and worked with along the way.”
A perfect summer read, Remote Access is well-written with plenty of twists and turns guaranteed to hold your attention to the end of the book.
“REMOTE ACCESS is a well-written, well-conceived, gripping thriller, well worth the read. Mr. Finlay has a background in government and finance and knows this world intricately. He has supplemented his experience with substantial research into international politics and the cyber world, and takes us on an exciting adventure into a very possible and real political trauma.” – Geza Tatrallay for Ottawa Review of Books
Remote Access by Barry Finlay
Keep On Climbing Publishing
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