With a bloody computer cable cover and "dead" in the title, it should be clear that Dead Links centers on the perils of online addiction and manipulation. If that doesn't seal the deal, then the name of the novel's immensely popular website Araknee should. "Araknee is evil..,It's dangerous...,It traps us like flies in a web, and the more we struggle, the tighter it gets," warns one character. And early on, the intentions of the white-clad, seemingly psychic villain (appropriately named Jonathan Seer) are made as crystal clear as his cold, corporate climate: He wants world domination via The World Wide Web and the psychological controls of Araknee. And no one it seems (from an enthralled infant to a powerful politician) is immune. Except, of course, the proceedings' crusading protagonist.
With so many potboiler plot roadsigns posted, Dead Links might initially seem like it leads to a dead read, right? While the body count is high, the story has several strong, redeeming qualities that make it a good read. The biggest asset is that author Nigel Mitchell boldly breaks the often male-dominated techno thriller mold and allow a different type of hero to helm the adventure: That being an African American female.
Amanda Katt is a smart, rough-and-tumble journalist who freelances for several Phoenix-based publications. But, she senses a big story with New York-based Araknee, and tussles with Seer and his henchpeople--led by unseen, online femme fatale "Jane Doe"--early and often. But, in a nice twist on the guy-gets-the-girl-and saves-the-day theme, Mitchell instead allows Katt the honor: As she constantly risks her life to save her hapless fiancee (who's addicted to Araknee). Thus, she gets scraped, scarred, and shot at wherever she goes, making for a modern woman who isn't always eye candy, but is satisfyingly effective. Speaking of effective, the author also conveys a great sense of location: From NYC to Phoenix to SoCal and NoCal, the settings are wonderfully described and lend a good supporting cast of heroes and villains.
To his credit, real-life techno-journalist Nigel Mitchell keeps the plot relatively free of confusing computer jargon. But, anyone who has read or seen a lot of computer-driven thrillers will probably figure out quickly how Dead Links will end and who's really weaving Araknee's control of The Web. However, it is nice to see such predictability unfold through the eyes of a different race and gender and done so in so many well-conceived settings.