The Hacker by Daniel Scanlan – book review (spoiler free)

The blurb

The gripping debut techno thriller from cybercrime specialist Daniel Scanlan. FBI Special Agent Ericka Blackwood chases a deadly online predator in a high-stakes hunt for the truth. Perfect for fans of Thomas Harris and Stieg Larsson.

He’s online. He’s anonymous. He’s deadly.

When a video surfaces on the Dark Web showing a murder no one else could have witnessed, FBI Special Agent Ericka Blackwood starts tracking down the killer. But the case is even darker than Ericka thought. Hidden behind an avatar named Dantalion, a criminal mastermind is feeding his sadistic appetites by directing the crimes of others – and he may have been orchestrating his twisted schemes for years.

As Ericka homes in on her target, the tables are suddenly turned. Dantalion has information that will help Ericka fulfil a deeply personal quest for revenge… but only if she risks her career, her life, and the fate of Dantalion’s future victims. Does vengeance come at too high a price?

The review

Oh, I enjoyed this.

I don’t usually read thrillers. Some are too dark for me, others don’t feel very believable. Other times, I’ve not felt very… thrilled.

This really had me on the edge of my seat. There are twists and turns galore. An added bonus is that the author is an expert in the field. As per Daniel Scanlan’s bio, he’s worked as a lawyer specialising in cyber crime, internet security, digital evidence and money laundering – and as such I was able to believe the capabilities of both the antagonist, a dark web predator called Dantalion, and the FBI specialist, Erika, who tries to catch him.

The game of cat and mouse is very much on with these two, both the best at what they do. Added to this, Erika, has her own demons which Dantalion uses to his advantage, thus giving this book elements of a psychological drama too.

There are violent aspects to the novel, as Dantalion seeks out to record violent acts to give to his followers, however, these acts vary depending on the wishes of his audience. Previous works I’ve read (or tried to read) seem to dwell only on sexual assault, and while that is also a theme of this book, it’s not overwhelming and is not included in every crime – which was a welcomed change.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Red Dragon/Silence of the Lambs will enjoy this book, but I’d also recommend it to people like me who aren’t ardent thriller fans. The world is very engaging and the technology is explained in such a way that anyone can understand what is going on.

I’m very excited to read the sequel when it comes out. While this book has a conclusion, one big thread has been left open – and I can’t wait to discover what Erika does next.

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