Author: Reece Hirsch
Published: September 2019 by Thomas & Mercer
Category: Cybercrime, Murder, FBI Procedural, Book Review
Special Agent Lisa Tanchik is the best at taking down cybercriminals. So when the FBI discovers a multibillion-dollar black market online, she’s tasked with finding the creator and bringing him to justice. Donning one of her many digital disguises, Tanchik goes undercover into the network.
Nate Fallon is an idealist who believes everyone is entitled to buy drugs without government interference.
To that end he has set up Kyte, an experimental marketplace on the Dark Web, where illegal drugs are bought and sold. Kyte is well planned and has made drug sales very cost effective. Nate is making a lot of money, but the FBI are on to him and so are the big cartels.
FBI special agent Lisa Tanchik is an expert in cybercrime with a detailed knowledge of the Dark Web. An anonymous message on one of the boards leads her to a link for Kyte and as she scrolls through, the scale of the operation and incredible amount of money changing hands begins to register. Using her online alter ego, Rodrigo, she signs up.
She knew the FBI would never give an untested field agent such as herself an opportunity to bring down a high-value target like the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel. But based on what she had seen so far, locating and arresting the founder of Kyte would amount to that sort of career-making bust.
The story is told from the perspectives of Lisa and Nate, as she works to infiltrate Kyte and Nate realises his foray into the dangerous world of drug dealing is getting out of hand in more ways than one. Libertarianism and the prospect of unimaginable wealth can make a person do things they wouldn’t have believed themselves capable of. A lengthy prison sentence becomes the least of Nate’s worries.
Black Nowhere is well written and the technical aspect isn’t too confusing although I know next to nothing about the Dark Web, except that it exists. The pace is steady as we follow Lisa’s attempts to gain Nate’s trust through their online personas, leading to more action in the second half of the book. Nate has an inflated ego, not recognising or accepting what he’s doing is harmful to others, and not only those who buy the drugs. His character seems to be more developed than Lisa.
I didn’t really feel I got to know Lisa, except for the fact she’s passionate about her job. She suffered a devastating personal loss and her ‘black dog’ is clinical depression. She relies on alcohol to cope and keeps a water bottle filled with vodka with her. I’m not sure how she’d get away with that … Perhaps her character will reveal more depth as the series progresses.
Quite a few reviewers have labelled this book as a fictionalised version of the true story of Ross Ulbricht’s Silk Road—the first Dark Web platform for selling illegal drugs. For those of us who weren’t aware of Silk Road (and perhaps some who were) I think the story stands on its own merits. It’s a chilling insight into something that will, in all probability, only expand and become more insidious.
I chose to read and review Black Nowhere based on an advance reader digital copy, courtesy of Katie Olsen (Little Bird Publicity) and NetGalley
About the Author
Reece Hirsch is the author of five thrillers that draw upon his background as a privacy attorney. His first book, The Insider, was a finalist for the 2011 International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. His next three books, The Adversary, Intrusion, and Surveillance, all feature former Department of Justice cybercrimes prosecutor Chris Bruen. Hirsch is a partner in the San Francisco office of an international law firm and cochair of its privacy and cybersecurity practice. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation (www.VADFoundation.org). He lives in the Bay Area with his wife.