The main protagonists are a little unbelievable. Susan Fletcher is one of the NSA’s top cryptographers and beautiful to wit. Her boyfriend, David Becker, who happens to share the author’s initials is also brilliant and beautiful. The book starts with their proposed weekend romantic break, being interrupted by NSA Commander Strathmore, who fears that ,the NSA’s super computer TRANSLATR, that can eavesdrop on the world’s terrorists, drug dealers and private citizens is under threat. A renegade programmer Tankado, has created a supposedly impregnable code that he intends to publish, a code that would render the $2 billion dollar super computer obsolete and leave the NSA unable to eavesdrop, on who they will.
The plot like other Dan Brown books has holes and the cryptography details probably wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny but it is a compulsive read. The short chapters (128 of them) make it a quick read, the action skips back and forward between Washington and Sevilla. In Washington, Susan tries to unravel the crypto riddles, using her brilliant mathematical mind, whilst in Sevilla David, tries to recover Tankado’s precious ring in Sevilla, which may contain a pass key to defeat the rogue algorithm.
Both Susan and David in their missions will find themselves in true thriller style fighting for their lives.
This was written in 1998 before the Da Vinci Code and is quite topical now in the post-Snowden era, when we know the NSA can snoop on our private emails.
My rating: a generous 4 out of 5, it did its job distracting me on the drudgery of travelling on public transport…