L.A. Bytes

Title & Link: L.A. Bytes
Author: P.A. Brown
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Mystery/suspense
Length: Novel (332 paperback pages)
Rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

A guest review by Buda

Summary Review: LA Bytes brings back the most of the magic of LA Heat, putting David and Chris through their paces in this fast-paced thriller.

The Blurb:

Digital Armageddon for the city of Angels?

Los Angeles’ Ste. Anne’s Medical Center has been hacked by a brilliant, malicious cracker. Christopher Bellamere has been hired to find out who is behind the break in. When tampered medical records nearly kill his lover, Homicide Detective David Eric Laine, the stakes go up and Chris goes after the cracker with all his skills.

It quickly becomes clear the cracker’s intentions go far beyond just breaking into a hospital’s computer network. He has the skill to bring the city of  Los Angeles to its knees. Can Chris and David stop him in time? Or will a digital Armageddon descend on the city of Angels? At what cost to the two lovers?

The Review:

Eighteen months after their Canadian wedding, Chris Bellamere and David Lane are in the thick of trouble again. This time it is not their relationship that is in danger, but their lives and David’s career. As the story opens, Chris is at Ste Anne’s Hospital checking out a breach of the institution’s computer files, which he determines to have originated within the hospital’s walls. Downstairs, needle-phobic David is preparing to receive his allergy shot. Though it hasn’t been mentioned in any of the previous books, it appears David is allergic to their animals. Chris arrives in time to be with his husband as he takes his medicine. Except the shot isn’t what it’s supposed to be and David goes into anaphylactic shock.

And here begins the first of many coincidences-that-aren’t. Later, Chris receives emails from “Sandman” telling him to keep his nose out of the Ste Anne’s hack, or David will pay the price. So, was the deliberate change in the “allergic-to” section of David’s medical file done because the hackers already knew Chris was involved? Even before Chris had signed the contract to investigate the digital break-in?

As Chris chases his hacker and David chases his murder suspect, there is time for both drama and fun. Des is again part of the story, dragging Chris and David to a Halloween street party, where another coincidence-that-isn’t nearly kills David. Thankfully, the relationship between our two heroes is much improved from the Jairo-fueled trauma drama in the previous book, LA Boneyard. They seem to have put their troubles and insecurities behind them, they still have not learned to communicate with each other. While that might be great for plot movement, it is a problem. As of this book, we are approximately five-and-a-half years into Chris and David’s relationship; it is far beyond the time when they should have learned how important this skill is in a relationship.

There are some out-of-character moments for both of our heroes (and one I found to be almost a TSTL decision), but they were all about furthering the plot. As an aside, at one point Chris is described as having interfered too much in David’s previous cases, yet David is later described as having shielded Chris from most of his police work by not talking about any of his cases.

Most of the book is from Chris’ point of view, which is a departure from the previous volumes–but the title is L.A. Bytes, after all. There is a not inconsiderable amount of technical computer jargon thrown about, including an online conversation between Chris and some members of a hacker/cracker community which is done in alpha-numeric code. The cyber-terrorism plot is effectively crafted and very interesting, considering how ridiculously intertwined essentially everything is these days. Without stretching the imagination or preaching at the point, PA Brown shows just a snippet of what could happen should a skilled and determined hacker/terrorist breach the digital security fields surrounding our essential services.

Surprisingly, the author hints at some incredibly sensitive social justice issues related to George W Bush’s “War on Terror.” I would love to discuss the details here, but that would, unfortunately, lead to spoilers. Suffice it to say, I was surprised and pleased that Brown didn’t take the easy way out and create wholly unsympathetic baddies.

What Did Not Work For Me:

The title of this book may as well have been Chris & David: In the Hospital Again, as they both wind up admitted. Again. It’s a plot curve (can’t even call it a twist at this point) that has outlived its usefulness in this series.

Coincidences-that-aren’t play way, way too big a part in the plot of this book. Starting with the wrong medication and ending with the jewelry, the plot relies on these unrealistic devices to move forward. Meanwhile, they stick out as Oh really? And how would Baddie know….?! moments.

Trevor is back. And apparently that is a bad thing. Who knew? When last we saw him in LA Boneyard, it appeared he and Des had been in a relationship during the time between LA Mischief and LA Boneyard. Brown never explains why Trevor is bad news, or why both Chris and David have such a strong reaction to his reappearance in Des’ life. This is perhaps the part of the book I found most aggravating. I fully expect an answer in the next book or I will be one unhappy reader.

What Did Work For Me:

Chris and David’s relationship, as I mentioned earlier, has rebounded from the previous threat and they seem to be in a good place.

With both Chris and David in the crosshairs, this is the most intense and personal plot since LA Heat, which adds immeasurably to the book as a whole.

This seems to be a natural conclusion point for Chris and David. They have survived a serial killer, crazy Ukrainian murderers, a horny fellow cop, and now a cyber-terrorist. Of course, we know that another book is planned dealing with David’s supposedly-but-not dead father, so Chris and David fans have at least one more adventure to enjoy. Not at all a bad thing.

Overall:

When I initially read this book, I enjoyed it immensely. However, upon re-reading it for this review, far too many inconsistencies and those coincidences-that-aren’t jumped out and lodged in the front of my brain. That said, I enjoyed it far more than LA Mischief or LA Boneyard. So, if you’re a fan of the author,  Chris and David, or even curious about cyber-terror, you should definitely read LA Bytes.

9 comments

  • Thanks, TJ. It’s good to be back in the saddle. I do know the too-many-books feeling. Perhaps that’s why I took some time off. *cough* Oh hi, Wave. I was, uh, just getting started on that second book for the week, ya know. Uhm…k, bye. 😉

    Reply
    • Buda
      You are such a faker. I was all sympathetic and instead you were lolling on some beach being served drinks with tiny umbrellas. 🙂 What was his name?

      Reply
      • Ha! His name! I knew there was something I was forgetting. *sigh* If only… a nice warm beach sounds good right now. It’s about 50F outside and I’m shivering. I think I’ll go warm up by re-reading Sno Ho. It came out as a stand-alone today, ya know. Angry sex is so hot! lol

        Reply
  • Hi Buda,
    I’m glad to see you’re back with us! Great review as always. I liked LA Heat a lot, but somehow never got around to the others – you know too many books out there. This book sounds interesting though and you might actually temp me to continue reading.

    Reply
  • Hi Buda,

    I’m a fan of the series. That said, I agree with you on many points, and with Wave, too.
    I, too, liked this book best after L.A. Heat, although I didn’t care for the computer gibberish (I’m not that kind of geek). Do I recall correctly that here was not a single scene of on-page sex?

    Personally, I think the author should leave it at that now David and Chris are great the way they are now, and I’d be happy to think fondly of them but leave them their peace. But that’s just me.

    What’s a TSTL decision, by the way?

    Reply
    • Hi, Feliz. Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the series. Are you planning to read Bermuda Heat?

      You are correct in that there is no on-page sex, though she starts the ball rolling and fades to black at least once. That really didn’t bother me because I’d much rather the time and pages be spent on a complicated plot than rehashing Insert Tab A into Slot B countless times. At the same time, it seemed Chris and David’s passion for each other had cooled too much, though it was nice to see David attempting affection in public.

      Considering the nature of the crime and Chris’ profession, I expected quite a bit of computer jibberish. There was actually less than I had anticipated, though I did find it impossible to truly understand what was there, except the chat. I have to say I was ridiculously proud of myself for figuring that out without calling one of the 20-year-olds I know! lol I can see how it would be too much for a lot of readers.

      I have to agree that this would be a good place to leave David and Chris, but I really want to know what was so wrong with Trevor! 🙂

      TSTL = Too Stupid To Live. It happens near the end, after the big bang but before the countdown begins. And that’s as close as I can get to pinpointing it for you. (Actually, now that I think about it, there were two–and Chris made both of them.)

      Reply
  • Buda
    Here again this author has come up with a book that could have been great but she relies on old tropes (men can’t talk to each other or understand each other). In addition, as in many of her books, there are countless inconsistencies or at least occurrences that can’t reasonably be explained, such as David being given the wrong medication deliberately even before Chris has even taken the case. Are readers not supposed to notice these inconsistencies?

    I’ll be reading this book because I’m interested in the cyber crime angle, but I think the best book in the series is L.A. Heat – I’m sure you will agree that the other stories have not lived up to its promise.

    There is another book? What else is there to write about?

    Reply
    • Wave, when I was writing the bit about the lack of communication I almost put in that I could hear you from here. *g* I know what a fan you are of the Big Misunderstanding, so I know you hate it when your men actually talk to one another. Yes, it is ridiculous. What’s worse is that the entire climax and resolution basically hinge on the fact that Chris and David fail to communicate–and not just properly, but at all–when one is about to go after the Baddie.

      I noticed the coincidences and inconsistencies the first time through and rolled my eyes, but they really drove me crazy on the second read. I understand that writing a different scene might not have been as fun to read or write, but a little ingenuity would have gone a long way, IMHO. Other writers make these things happen without them seeming unrealistic, so I know it can be done.

      LA Heat is definitely the best of the bunch, without question. This one is almost as good, if you can overlook the flaws. I was glad it was as good as it is, because Mischief left me cold and Boneyard was somewhere in between.

      The next book, Bermuda Heat, sounds like it will be very personal, which, I think, will be good. Here’s a snippet of the blurb from PA Brown’s site:

      David Eric Laine always believed his father had died in Vietnam before his birth. His mother remarried and he was adopted by his stepfather and grew up knowing Graham Laine as his only father. Forty years later, a letter arrives and David finds out everything he thought was a lie.

      I am actually intrigued by this one.

      Reply

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