Jeffery Deaver, New York Times bestselling author of The Skin Collector and The Bone Collector featuring popular forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme, delivers a masterful thriller about a psychotic computer hacker/killer packed with stunning and fact-based technical details and signature Deaver plot twists.
People in Silicon Valley are dying. A mysterious, psychotic, and brilliant computer hacker, code-named Phate, is infiltrating their computer, invading their lives, and—with the perfect line, the perfect, personal detail—luring them to their deaths.
Desperate, the head of the Computer Crimes Division frees Wyatt Gillette, imprisoned on his own hacking charge, to aid the investigation. Gillette has wrangled with Phate before and is glad to have his chance for revenge. But when the head of the CCD, and the man who hired him, is murdered, Wyatt must report to Frank Bristol, a grizzled homicide detective who favors old-fashioned sleuthing and forensic evidence to track killers. Together, Wyatt and Bristol make an unlikely team but with the same villain in their crosshairs, they’ll have to learn to get over the generational, and technological, gaps.
Filled with accurate technical details, a “high-tension wired” (People) mystery, and shocking surprises, The Blue Nowhere will keep you guessing the outcome to the very last page.
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About the Author
Jeffery Deaver is the international, #1 bestselling author of more than twenty-seven suspense novels, including The Bone Collector, which was made into a film starring Denzel Washington. He lives in North Carolina.
Date of Birth:May 6, 1950
Place of Birth:Chicago, Illinois
Education:B.A., University of Missouri; Juris Doctor, cum laude, Fordham University School of Law
Read an Excerpt
The Blue Nowhere
CHAPTER 00000001 / ONE
The battered white van had made her uneasy.
Lara Gibson sat at the bar of Vesta’s Grill on De Anza in Cupertino, California, gripping the cold stem of her martini glass and ignoring the two young chip-jocks standing nearby, casting flirtatious glances at her.
She looked outside again, into the overcast drizzle, and saw no sign of the windowless Econoline that, she believed, had followed her from her house, a few miles away, to the restaurant. Lara slid off the bar stool and walked to the window, glanced outside. The van wasn’t in the restaurant’s parking lot. Nor was it across the street in the Apple Computer lot or the one next to it, belonging to Sun Microsystems. Either of those lots would’ve been a logical place to park to keep an eye on her—if the driver had in fact been stalking her.
No, the van was just a coincidence, she decided—a coincidence aggravated by a splinter of paranoia.
She returned to the bar and glanced at the two young men who were alternately ignoring her and offering subtle smiles.
Like nearly all the young men here for happy hour they were in casual slacks and tie-less dress shirts and wore the ubiquitous insignia of Silicon Valley—corporate identification badges on thin canvas lanyards around their necks. These two sported the blue cards of Sun Microsystems. Other squadrons represented here were Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Apple, not to mention a slew of new kids on the block, start-up Internet companies, which were held in some disdain by the venerable Valley regulars.
At thirty-two, Lara Gibson was probably five years older than her two admirers. And as a self-employed businesswoman who wasn’t a geek—connected with a computer company—she was easily five times poorer. But that didn’t matter to these two men, who were already captivated by her exotic, intense face surrounded by a tangle of raven hair, her ankle boots, a red-and-orange gypsy skirt and a black sleeveless top that showed off hard-earned biceps.
She figured that it would be two minutes before one of these boys approached her and she missed that estimate by only ten seconds.
The young man gave her a variation of a line she’d heard a dozen times before: Excuse me don’t mean to interrupt but hey would you like me to break your boyfriend’s leg for making a beautiful woman wait alone in a bar and by the way can I buy you a drink while you decide which leg?
Another woman might have gotten mad, another woman might have stammered and blushed and looked uneasy or might have flirted back and let him buy her an unwanted drink because she didn’t have the wherewithal to handle the situation. But those would be women weaker than she. Lara Gibson was “the queen of urban protection,” as the San Francisco Chronicle had once dubbed her. She fixed her eyes on the man’s, gave a formal smile and said, “I don’t care for any company right now.”
Simple as that. End of conversation.
He blinked at her frankness, avoided her staunch eyes and returned to his friend.
Power . . . it was all about power.
She sipped her drink.
In fact, that damn white van had brought to mind all the rules she’d developed as someone who taught women to protect themselves in today’s society. Several times on the way to the restaurant she’d glanced into her rearview mirror and noticed the van thirty or forty feet behind. It had been driven by some kid. He was white but his hair was knotted into messy brown dreadlocks. He wore combat fatigues and, despite the overcast and misty rain, sunglasses. This was, of course, Silicon Valley, home of slackers and hackers, and it wasn’t unusual to stop in Starbucks for a venti skim latte and be waited on by a polite teenager with a dozen body piercings, a shaved head and an outfit like an inner-city gangsta’s. Still, the driver had seemed to stare at her with an eerie hostility.
Lara found herself absently fondling the can of pepper spray she kept in her purse.
Another glance out the window. She saw only fancy cars bought with dot-com money.
A look around the room. Only harmless geeks.
Relax, she told herself and sipped her potent martini.
She noted the wall clock. Quarter after seven. Sandy was fifteen minutes late. Not like her. Lara pulled out her cell phone but the display read NO SERVICE.
She was about to find the pay phone when she glanced up and saw a young man enter the bar and wave at her. She knew him from somewhere but couldn’t quite place him. His trim but long blond hair and the goatee had stuck in her mind. He wore white jeans and a rumpled blue work shirt. His concession to the fact he was part of corporate America was a tie; as befit a Silicon Valley businessman, though, the design wasn’t stripes or Jerry Garcia flowers but a cartoon Tweety Bird.
“Hey, Lara.” He walked up and shook her hand, leaned against the bar. “Remember me? I’m Will Randolph. Sandy’s cousin? Cheryl and I met you on Nantucket—at Fred and Mary’s wedding.”
Right, that’s where she recognized him from. He and his pregnant wife sat at the same table with Lara and her boyfriend, Hank. “Sure. How you doing?”
“Good. Busy. But who isn’t around here?”
His plastic neckwear read Xerox Corporation PARC. She was impressed. Even nongeeks knew about Xerox’s legendary Palo Alto Research Center five or six miles north of here.
Will flagged down the bartender and ordered a light beer. “How’s Hank?” he asked. “Sandy said he was trying to get a job at Wells Fargo.”
“Oh, yeah, that came through. He’s at orientation down in L.A. right now.”
The beer came and Will sipped. “Congratulations.”
A flash of white in the parking lot.
Lara looked toward it quickly, alarmed. But the vehicle turned out to be a white Ford Explorer with a young couple inside.
Her eyes focused past the Ford and scanned the street and the parking lots again, recalling that, on the way here, she’d glanced at the side of the van as it passed her when she’d turned into the restaurant’s parking lot. There’d been a smear of something dark and reddish on the side; probably mud—but she’d thought it almost looked like blood.
“You okay?” Will asked.
“Sure. Sorry.” She turned back to him, glad she had an ally. Another of her urban protection rules: Two people are always better than one. Lara now modified that by adding, Even if one of them is a skinny geek who can’t be more than five feet, ten inches tall and is wearing a cartoon tie.
Will continued, “Sandy called me on my way home and asked if I’d stop by and give you a message. She tried to call you but couldn’t get through on your cell. She’s running late and asked if you could meet her at that place next to her office where you went last month, Ciro’s? In Mountain View. She made a reservation at eight.”
“You didn’t have to come by. She could’ve called the bartender.”
“She wanted me to give you the pictures I took at the wedding. You two can look at ’em tonight and tell me if you want any copies.”
Will noticed a friend across the bar and waved—Silicon Valley may extend hundreds of square miles but it’s really just a small town. He said to Lara, “Cheryl and I were going to bring the pictures this weekend to Sandy’s place in Santa Barbara. . . .”
“Yeah, we’re going down on Friday.”
Will paused and smiled as if he had a huge secret to share. He pulled his wallet out and flipped it open to a picture of himself, his wife and a very tiny, ruddy baby. “Last week,” he said proudly. “Claire.”
“Oh, adorable,” Lara whispered.
“So we’ll be staying pretty close to home for a while.”
“Fine. The baby’s fine. There’s nothing like it. . . . But, I’ll tell you, being a father totally changes your life.”
“I’m sure it does.”
Lara glanced at the clock again. Seven-thirty. It was a half-hour drive to Ciro’s this time of night. “I better get going.”
Then, with a thud of alarm, she thought again about the van and the driver.
The rusty smear on the battered door. . . .
Will gestured for the check and paid.
“You don’t have to do that,” she said. “I’ll get it.”
He laughed. “You already did.”
“That mutual fund you told me about at the wedding. The one you’d just bought?”
Lara remembered shamelessly bragging about a biotech fund that had zoomed up 60 percent last year.
“I got home from Nantucket and bought a shitload of it. . . . So . . . thanks.” He tipped the beer toward her. Then he stood. “You all set?”
“You bet.” Lara stared uneasily at the door as they walked toward it.
It was just paranoia, she told herself. She thought momentarily, as she did from time to time, that she should get a real job, like all of these people in the bar. She shouldn’t dwell so much on the world of violence.
Sure, just paranoia . . .
But, if so, then why had the dreadlocked kid sped off so fast when she’d pulled into the parking lot here and glanced at him?
Will stepped outside and opened his umbrella. He held it up for both of them to use.
Lara recalled another rule of urban protection: Never feel too embarrassed or proud to ask for help.
And yet as Lara was about to ask Will Randolph to walk her to her car after they got the snapshots she had a thought: If the kid in the van really was a threat, wasn’t it selfish of her to ask him to endanger himself? Here he was, a husband and new father, with other people depending on him. It seemed unfair to—
“Something wrong?” Will asked.
“You sure?” he persisted.
“Well, I think somebody followed me here to the restaurant. Some kid.”
Will looked around. “You see him?”
He asked, “You have that Web site, right? About how women can protect themselves.”
“You think he knows about it? Maybe he’s harassing you.”
“Could be. You’d be surprised at the hate mail I get.”
He reached for his cell phone. “You want to call the police?”
Never feel too embarrassed or proud to ask for help.
“No, no. Just . . . would you mind, after we get the pictures, walking me to my car?”
Will smiled. “Of course not. I don’t exactly know karate but I can yell for help with the best of them.”
She laughed. “Thanks.”
They walked along the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and she checked out the cars. As in every parking lot in Silicon Valley there were dozens of Saabs, BMWs and Lexuses. No vans, though. No kids. No bloody smears.
Will nodded toward where he’d parked, in the back lot. He said, “You see him?”
They walked past a stand of juniper and toward his car, a spotless silver Jaguar.
Jesus, did everybody in Silicon Valley have money except her?
He dug the keys out of his pocket. They walked to the trunk. “I only took two rolls at the wedding. But some of them are pretty good.” He opened the trunk and paused and then looked around the parking lot. She did too. It was completely deserted. His was the only car there.
Will glanced at her. “You were probably wondering about the dreads.”
“Yeah,” he said. “The dreadlocks.” His voice was flatter, distracted. He was still smiling but his face was different now. It seemed hungry.
“What do you mean?” she asked calmly but fear was detonating inside her. She noticed a chain was blocking the entrance to the back parking lot. And she knew he’d hooked it after he’d pulled in—to make sure nobody else could park there.
“It was a wig.”
Oh, Jesus, my Lord, thought Lara Gibson, who hadn’t prayed in twenty years.
He looked into her eyes, recording her fear. “I parked the Jag here a while ago then stole the van and followed you from home. With the combat jacket and wig on. You know, just so you’d get edgy and paranoid and want me to stay close. . . . I know all your rules—that urban protection stuff. Never go into a deserted parking lot with a man. Married men with children are safer than single men. And my family portrait? In my wallet? I hacked it together from a picture in Parents magazine.”
She whispered hopelessly, “You’re not . . . ?”
“Sandy’s cousin? Don’t even know him. I picked Will Randolph because he’s somebody you sort of know, who sort of looks like me. I mean, there’s no way in the world I could’ve gotten you out here alone if you hadn’t known me—or thought you did. Oh, you can take your hand out of your purse.” He held up her canister of pepper spray. “I got it when we were walking outside.”
“But . . .” Sobbing now, shoulders slumped in hopelessness. “Who are you? You don’t even know me. . . .”
“Not true, Lara,” he whispered, studying her anguish the way an imperious chess master examines his defeated opponent’s face. “I know everything about you. Everything in the world.”
The Blue Nowhere Interview
The latest from Jeffery Deaver, author of the bestseller The Empty Chair, is a suspense-filled ride that takes place inside the world of computers. Fans who want to feel close to the action can now read the book on their computers as an eBook! We asked Deaver a few questions about the book and the decision to make it available in electronic form.
Barnes & Noble.com: Because this book is about the Internet and computers, it seems like a natural choice to publish it in eBook format. How do you think your fans will react to the technical nature of this book and to your use of a new format?
Jeffery Deaver: I worked very hard in this book to make the technical aspects of the hacking and the computer world understandable. I myself am not a tech person so I spent a lot of time studying, to comprehend the concepts myself, and then writing them so a reader like me would understand them. Clarity is, of course, a writer's most important tool. Of course, my readers are used to technical information in my books -- particularly forensics and crime-related technology -- so this book is a natural for them. I know from the large amount of fan mail I get through my website, jefferydeaver.com, and the new one, thebluenowhere.com, that many fans spend a lot of time in cyberspace(or, as I call it, "the Blue Nowhere") and will appreciate the eBook format.
B&N.com: Do you think that reading this book in electronic format will enhance the reading experience?
JD: Absolutely. My whole goal as a writer of suspense is to give my readers the most intense emotional experience I can. Since the whole thrust of The Blue Nowhere is a fight between a good hacker and a bad hacker set on the battlefield of the computer world, reading the novel in an electronic format can only enhance the readers' experience.
B&N.com: How much did you know about computers before writing The Blue Nowhere? You seem to have a great deal of knowledge about computers now -- you've created plot twists that are based on specific details of computer code and decryption technology. Did you have to do a lot of research in order to write about these topics?
JD: Massive research. I've owned computers for 20 years -- though solely for word processing -- so I was vaguely familiar with the concepts. But, as in all my books, I use research to enhance the story, to move the plot along. It's never included in my books as ancillary information or for background. So I needed to learn a great deal about machines and code and hacking and the like to integrate the details into the story.
B&N.com: While some of the action in this book takes place in California, much of it takes place in the Blue Nowhere -- the intangible space of the computer world. Did you find it challenging to write such a suspenseful story when so much of the plot is removed from the physical world?
JD: Actually, my biggest challenge was limiting the number of terrible ways in which my villain could harm people through the computer world (so that readers wouldn't get numbed by the quantity of the incidents). Yes, the Blue Nowhere is intangible, but it affects so many different aspects of our lives in a very physical and real way that I had more than enough edge-of-the-seat suspense to put into the book.
B&N.com: The murderer in this story spends much of his time in front of his computer, which seems innocent enough. Yet he is an absolutely terrifying character. How did you manage to create a character so frightening though he is just sitting at a keyboard?
JD: We writers of suspense fiction are always looking for new ways to thrill our readers -- that is, we try to avoid the clichés that are so tempting to fall back on. I wanted to create a unique villain, yet one who would have an immediate impact on my readers -- I wanted to scare the socks off them. Since my bad guy -- his username is Phate -- sits at his computer and can get into his victim's machines with a few keystrokes, I wanted readers to think, Oh-oh, my keyboard feels funny or my hard drive sounds weird; maybe Phate's inside my system right now!
B&N.com: You didn't actually reference electronic books in The Blue Nowhere, but do you think that some of your tech-savvy characters (like Gillette) would have enjoyed reading in electronic format?
JD: Certainly. Gillette -- my "white-hat hacker" -- is driven by a sense of curiosity and a fascination with the new and the innovative. Of course, he'd probably want to take apart the hardware and the code to see what makes them tick. One good thing about Gillette, however -- he always put things back together again.
B&N.com: Did you know that this book might be published in eBook format as you were working on it? If so, did you think about how the book might appear electronically as you were writing?
JD: I didn't specifically know what the eBook plans were for this book, though of course the subject has come up more often recently as publishers are moving in that direction. I'm working on a new book now -- my next Lincoln Rhyme novel (the criminalist from The Bone Collector) -- and am already thinking in terms of eBook concepts.
B&N.com: In your book, some characters see the world of computers as completely dark and full of danger. Others see computers as potentially dangerous but also as an opportunity for unlimited exploration. As an author, how do you feel about electronic books? Does electronic publishing offer you new ways to explore your craft?
JD: I'm delighted, of course, with the concept of eBooks because I feel that any mechanism to enhance the storytelling experience is wonderful. eBooks are very thrilling for me as a reader and a writer; it's like being present at the invention of movable type hundreds of years ago. I was once described by an interviewer as "manipulative," which I took to be a wonderful compliment. As I mention above, I love to manipulate my readers -- to give them the most intense roller-coaster ride I possibly can. I've recently used graphic elements and maps in my books and, while staying true to the dynamics of the structure of a thriller novel, I'm looking forward to exploring the many ways that such novels can be enhanced in these exciting new formats.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fantastically written and scary look into the deceptive world of the computer criminal gone mad. I didn't want to put this book down and finished it in just a couple of days. Interesting characters, false leads, and surprising turns places this "could-be real" story in the must-read category. Even if you aren't computer-savvy, just seeing today's news will have you believing the plot. Amazing writing by Deaver. The binary chapter numbers was a nice touch too.
This is a really fascinating novel; I've never read anything quite like it before. Deaver is incredibly knowledgable and really knows how to spin a tale. I just love his writing style. I also really liked his novels featuring Kathryn Dance, as kinesics is a fascinating subject. I've read all the Lincoln Ryhme/Amelia Sachs novels in order and loved every one of them. I saw the movie The Bone Collector years ago and didn't like it so when a friend borrowed me the book, I was skeptical. I ended up loving it and every book in the series! There are only a few novelists whose books I must buy in hardcover as soon as they are released; Jeffrey Deaver is one of those novelists. You may also like: The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, the newer books of Ruth Rendell, and anything by Barbara Vine.
I love this writer--his plot twists are amazing and make his stories hard to put down. This one was full of computerese (is there such a term?) but this was not off-putting. Hard one to put down...
Excellent author and story.
If you are a gamer or computer geek, this is just too good to pass up.
Jeffery Deaver in this book, writes the way a book ought to be written. This is an excellent read for me and I enjoyed it. It involves cyberspace, or the usage of the internet for mystery and for murder. It was a totally absorbing read, one that would be good to read again. J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"
"The Blue Nowhere" was the first Deaver book I read and the one that got me hooked on his other books. The pace was relentless and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I highly recommend it.
I rarely read murder mystery novels so it took me a long time to finally pick up this book and read it. I was amazed at how fast I was sucked into this book! It's one of those stories that keeps you guessing at every chapter. It was very suspenseful and intelligent. This is the first book I've read by Jeffrey Deaver and now I definintely want to read more. If I could compare this book to another book I've read it would be Angels and Demons - just replace all the scientific and religious words with computer terms. I think people who are really into computers would appreciate this book. Even if you don't know much about computers you would still enjoy it because there's a glossary in the book listing the definitions to all the computer lingo. I recommend this to everyone.
There are books that are great and there are some books which are greater than great. These books grab you, paralyse your body so you can't stop reading and do something else and you are hooked until the very last page. "The Blue Nowhere" is such a book. It's the "Da Vinci Code" all over again!The plot has already been described on this page so I won't repeat it. But suffice to say, once you have finished reading this book, you'll see the internet in a whole new light!There are so many twists and turns that it is impossible to predict what will happen next. One of my regular tricks while reading is to try to guess the guilty culprit by the middle of the book at the latest. My success rate is reasonably good but I have to admit, I got it totally wrong this time! There are so many twists and U-turns that you're left dizzy! Oh and when you finally discover the guilty culprit, you'll fall off your chair in shock!My one slightly negative comment about the book is that in some places, you're given too much technical information about computers. (Mr Deaver has definately done his research on this book!!) With these parts of the book, you start to suffer from "information overload" and you have to re-read these sections to understand it properly.If you hate computers and the internet then this book is definately not for you. On the other hand, if you are a computer & internet addict (like me!) then you will devour this book! It's action-packed, it makes you sweat with tension and this is one book I will definately keep and read again! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!OK, I'm off to eat something for the first time in 24 hours and then I am off to check out those hacker chatrooms Mr Deaver told me about! Oh and is it just me or does the Patricia Nolan character remind you of Kathy Bates? She would be perfect to play Nolan in any movie adaptation of the book.
The trouble with computer crime stories is they date very quickly, this is no exception.
This got better with every page. I will read more of Deaver
I coldn't put rhis book down even after my third reading of it
I thought this was a great book. You need to read this book.
This is one of the best crime thrillers I have ever read!
I enjoyed this book. The murder mystery part keeps the story moving. What provided me the most entertainment while reading was how out of date it was. I know for its time it was so advanced but now we are so much further advanced. I just giggle at it. It reminds me of watching the movie the Net with sandra Bullock. Fun, quick read.