cover image Killer.App


Barbara D'Amato. Forge, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85991-6

Computer-phobia strikes again in this competent but very busy, and not very imaginative, conspiracy yarn from the author of the Cat Marasala mystery series (Hard Case, 1994, etc.). Just like Sandra Bullock in the hit film The Net, Chicago computer programmer Sheryl Birch stumbles onto a secret program with evil implications. The program, made by SJR DataSystems, allows, among other possibilities, entry into the data records of Chicago hospitals--access that may have been used to kill someone. Before she can act on her discovery, Sheryl is run off a highway and plunged into a coma. Her feisty Chicago cop sister, Suze, pulls together a small band of trusted cops to take on SJR's diabolical honcho, Dean Utley. He, it turns out, has world-class ambitions, including taking over the Oval Office--via assassination. D'Amato knows her computers, and offers enough bit-cracking, e-mailing, browsing and downloading to please the most demanding armchair hacker. This isn't her strongest work, however. It suffers from a relatively simplistic plot and characters who aren't nearly as interesting as the electronic bits they fling at each other through cyberspace. (Apr.)