The Mockingbird Drive by A.C. Fuller can be a fast-paced novel of intrigue for fans of computer science forensics. There is a mystery that must be solved by an unusual system of reverse engineering. A central object in the first few pages is a hard drive, one of the earliest “ever.” While James Stacy does not know what is on it, he is sure that if he can decode this early technology device, he will find the knowledge of a huge conspiracy that will change the world. James does not have the necessary knowledge to do this; he travels to a small-town newspaper where he knows of a person who can explore corners of the Dark Web and reconstruct information from the drive. Fuller kills off James in the first few pages in a supposed random killing by a mentally ill attacker, hence no spoiler, and the scene shifts to Alex, the chief hero in a series of novels. This is Book Two, but Fuller assures us this is a stand-alone novel.
Alex is a flawed hero both professionally and personally. In love with Greta, his wife of twelve years, she had kicked him out eight months prior in a separation that will or will not lead to a divorce. For a reason that is difficult to define, it seems she has grown as a person and observed that Alex was stuck somewhere to the point that he was boring without hope of recovery. During this adventure to save the ethical world, Alex will self-evaluate his sense of social morals and ethics with an objective to make a positive change that will save his marriage while also rescuing civilization. Professionally, Alex is one-half of a high-tech website company that specializes in creating fame for its own sake. Even Alex admits that some of his company’s published works fit the category of sleaze. Alex contributes conceptual and marketing strategy to the firm. He is amazingly ignorant of basic computer skills and relies on his partner for all the techie gee-whiz type stuff.
Prior to the death of James, Alex had received a message from James offering some sort of game-changing story about a conspiracy in high places. Alex sets off for a meeting with James without knowledge of his friend’s death and, once knowledgeable, is left with little alternative than to meet Innerva, James’s partner. Luckily, she has a second hard drive to replace the one that had been during the supposed random attack on the newspaper where James had been trying to enlist computer expertise. Still, she is also not a computer expert but gratefully accepts help from Alex in finding knowledgeable people to exploit ancient technology. Innerva sends him to Quinn, an overclocker.
And this is where the novel gets slow for the general reader. From 16% to 80% the novel is about the relationship between dark web guru Quinn and Alex (she doesn’t respect Alex), Alex’s relationship with ex-wife Greta (she doesn’t respect him) and a further Indian guru who has managed to squirrel way hardware that might be useful in exploiting the mystery hard drive. Tudayapi, the Indian doesn’t really respect, like, or trust anyone. Maybe all these characters will eventually come together. There are chase scenes and mysterious identities but there is little excitement until the 80% point. Then the novel takes off again and is exciting until the end. I am happy I lasted to the 80% point because the final 20% is quite creative in its examination of the capabilities of social media to get things done.
Because of that lengthy, unexciting middle part, I gave this novel four Amazon stars. It is available through Kindle Unlimited as a free read. I will read more novels by A. C. Fuller but will probably go back to his political thriller series which include Open Primary, a novel I liked a lot.