CAPTCHA Thief is the fourth mystery tale in Rosie Claverton’s Amy Lane series set in Wales. Amy is an agoraphobic computer genius who does some hacking for private clients as well as the local police. Unable to leave her house, she depends on her assistant Jason Carr, an ex-con now going straight, to do her leg work. The notion of a genius solving crimes without ever leaving the comfort of home while interesting isn’t necessarily all that new. One thinks immediately of the great Nero Wolfe.
Would that Amy was as substantial and charismatic a character as Wolfe. She has his genius, but she lacks his bravura. Her emotional problems make her seem needy and at times overly dependent. And Jason is not quite the devil may care wise cracking Archie. Unlike Wolfe she is beset with human weakness — jealousy most notably. She is unable to admit just exactly what she wants her relationship with Jason to be. Does he simply do her bidding, or is there to be something more. Despite her nerdy compulsions she is a woman who doesn’t always seem to know what she needs emotionally.
The story itself is an overly complicated account of art theft and murder tied to a geocaching hunt with a touch of human organ selling and prostitute smuggling. A famous Impressionist painting is stolen from a local museum, and during the theft the night guard is murdered. While the local police are willing to accept help from Amy, the National Crime Agency investigator on the scene is uninterested. On the other hand, she, a bit of a beauty herself, seems not as uninterested in Jason. And when she invites him to join her in an investigative trip up North, Amy’s insecurities begin to get the better of her. Things get even worse when she learns that the locals are starting their own cybercrime unit, and may no longer need her help.
For readers coming to the series for the first time not all the character relationships are as clear as they might be. It is incumbent on the writer to clarify past events for new readers, and do so in a way that doesn’t bore the longtime fan. Claverton doesn’t always get the job done with her supporting cast. Things would likely be a lot clearer for the reader following Amy and Jason from their earlier appearances.
Check out the Blocritics interview with the author.