Red Team Blues
Red Team Blues, Cory Doctorow‘s latest book, doesn’t, in spite of what the title might make you think, have anything to do with either of the political parties in the United States. Although, you could say it does indirectly as it is about how people do their best to hide huge sums of cash from the government either to avoid paying taxes or to launder it. Oh, and its also about how cryptocurrency has become a huge part of that whole game.
Martin Hench is a sixty something forensic accountant. He’s spent most of his life hunting down the grifters and cheats trying to hide their money with increasingly sophisticated software and money laundering techniques. He’s always been on what he refers to as the red team – those folk who go after the money launderers and tax evaders of the world – the blue team.
Martin has a few character quirks, the most notable being he lives in mobile home and cruises around California with no fixed address. He makes good money at his job and that offers him the chance to take or leave jobs as they come up and lead a nomadic lifestyle. At 67 years old he’s starting to slow down a little and only taking on select jobs.
One of those jobs is a request from an old friend. Someone has managed to steal a laptop which contains the key to unlocking a cryptocurrency set up the friend had created. Anyone who controlled the key could potentially control the fund and the information behind whose money is hiding in those banks of computers.
While Hench has the wherewithal to deal with the tech side of the problem – tracking the trail of how and when the laptop could have been stolen from its secure lock-up – he’s not prepared for where the trail leads. For he finds the lap top and what’s left of the people who stole it.
For those who have never read Doctorow‘s work before you will be amazed at how well he integrates technological information into his stories. Sure he writes about tech, but he does so in such way that it becomes part of the story – not the story. Even relative technophobes like me – someone who uses the tech but makes little effort to understand the deeper, and sometimes darker, side of it – will not find themselves becoming bogged down by incomprehensible technobabble.
Doctorow has created a high tech, high finance, thriller that is captivating and intelligent. His characters, especially Hench, are beautifully drawn and fully developed. Even better they act their age – the lead 67 year old man doesn’t end up with a 20 something paramour or go clubbing.
With Red Team Blues Cory Doctorow proves, once again, he’s the master of telling high tech mysteries and thrillers. Unlike some his love of technology doesn’t out weigh his humanity. He sees how things like cryptocurrency are as much a danger to society and humanity as they could potentially have benefits. His scorn for the so-called tech-bros who espouse the way of the future is through technology without caring about any of the human costs along the way is obvious.
Red Team Blues is a great and wonderful read that will entertain and educate you. Even better, you’ll be having such a good time reading you won’t even notice you’re learning something until after you’ve finished the book.