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.
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?
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.
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.