Book Report: The Devil’s Code by John Sandford (2000)

Since I didn’t group it with the Prey novels I inherited from my aunt (Easy Prey, Chosen Prey, and Naked Prey), I overlooked this book until now, and it worked its way to the back of my “to read” bookshelves.

The book centers upon a series character named Kidd who’s a computer hacker. The book is five years old, but it’s weathered fairly well; Sandford keeps the specifics of the technology to a minimum. Ergo, he’s not made laughable mistakes in the world of 2000 which computer people would spot and it prevents early obsolescence of the book. Also, Kidd gets out of the basement and doesn’t spend a whole lot of the book hacking. Instead, he’s social engineering, reconnoitering, and breaking and entering. So it’s more gripping, less dated.

The plot: a former associate of Kidd’s has gotten killed after inadvertently poking into some conspiracy among NSA or near-NSA types, and he left a message for Kidd just in case something were to happen to him. That something does happen, and Kidd’s skeptical. However, Kidd finds himself listed as the member of a non-existent hacker group identified as a high priority target for law enforcement, they force Kidd to investigate and retaliate–not so much out of his sense of vengeance, but his instinct for survival.

It’s a serviceable book, better than the Prey series where the main character, Lucas Davenport, field marshals a team as they deal with political pressures and solve high-profile cases. Still, Kidd depends upon a support network, so he doesn’t fit the lone wolf archetype in suspense novels. He’s also a Democrat, like Davenport, whose political asides tend to run to the sniggering at the Republicans. The asides don’t detract from my enjoyment of the book, but I am aware of them.

So it’s worth a buck or two in the used book store, certainly. Perhaps even five on the remainder table, and perhaps I’ll explore the other books in the series once I get through the hundreds of volumes remaining on the “to read” shelves.

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