Title: Shadowed by Karen E. Olson
Black Hat Thriller Book Two
Publisher: Severn House Publishers; First World Publication edition
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 224 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Computer hacker ‘Nicole Jones’ finds herself on the run from an unknown enemy in this tense and twisting novel of identity and suspense
The computer hacker formerly known as Nicole Jones is now living as Susan McQueen on a remote island in Quebec, Canada. She is living a quiet life, working as an artist – but she has not given up her computer. While in an online chatroom, she sees a shadow – someone is inside her laptop, watching her every move, and somehow knows exactly who she is.
Afraid that he will track her down, Susan is on the run again – but from whom? Is it the FBI or someone associated with her past crime sixteen years before? Making her way across the border and back to the USA, some unsettling discoveries make Susan realize that she won’t be able to escape her past a second time.
In Shadowed, the second installment in Karen E. Olson’s Nicole Jones Mystery Series, ex-hacker fugitive Nicole Jones is now living under the alias Susan McQueen. Her idyllic life on a remote island in Quebec comes to an abrupt end when she clicks on a malicious link and her computer is taken hostage by someone demanding a million bitcoins. The hacker turned artist must turn to an anonymous online collaborator, known as Tracker, to help her uncover the identity of the shadow. When Susan tries to purchase a new computer from a friend, he calls in a cybercrime expert to help her get rid of the malware. Spooked after discovering the expert works with the police, Susan once again goes on the run but can she outwit the people who are chasing her?
Sixteen years ago, Susan helped her lover steal millions of dollars from mobster Tony DeMarco. The pair fled to Paris where Susan shot the FBI agent assigned to her case. She returned to the states where she lived off the grid until her past caught up with her, forcing her to reinvent herself once again. Unable to resist visiting a chat room on the dark web, Susan finds herself in trouble after clicking on a link she thinks is from Tracker. Not knowing whom to trust, she attempts to learn who is behind the ransom demand on her own, but her hacking skills are still a little rusty so she has no choice but to ask Tracker for help.
In real life, Susan grows suspicious when a fellow painter continues turning up everywhere she goes and in an effort to evade him, she knows it is time for her disappear once again. In the midst of her frantic attempt to figure out where to go next, Susan continues trying to come up with the million dollar bitcoin ransom in order to protect her friends. A mysterious message about Tracker raises a few suspicions, but with no one else to turn to, she continues working with him. Susan finally escapes from Quebec, but will she be any safer once she arrives at her new destination?
Susan has good instincts so she immediately goes to ground once she believes that she is being followed. A little slow to research the person chasing her, she is stunned when she uncovers his identity. Unsure what connection he might have to the ransomware attack, Susan immediately begins altering her appearance and finds out of the way places to hide. Spotting him with someone that is eerily familiar to her, Susan finds help from a very unexpected source and she finally makes her escape while continuing to work with Tracker to uncover who is behind the ransom demand. With nothing but her two computers and her backpack containing a few changes of clothes and her emergency cash, Susan is poised to start over in a new place with a new identity when she gets the shock of her life once she returns to the US. Tension mounts after she is presented with a stunning opportunity to put her past truly behind her but will Susan accept the surprising offer?
Shadowed is a fast-paced and adrenaline-filled addition to the Nicole Jones Mystery Series. Karen E. Olson once again delivers a riveting mystery with an intriguing premise that is quite relevant in today’s world. Susan/Nicole is an intelligent capable heroine who is immensely appealing and easy to root for despite her criminal past. The storyline is quite fascinating and although some of the computer jargon might be a bit confusing to the casual computer user, the technical aspect is relatively easy to follow. Although most of the loose ends are completely wrapped up, a jaw-dropping revelation at the novel’s end will leave readers impatiently awaiting the next book in the series.