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Fatal Encryption (Alex Bellamy mystery) by…
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Fatal Encryption (Alex Bellamy mystery)

by Debra Purdy Kong

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My Take: This was a pretty good mystery. I always like to read about different ways that using computers can be used in mysteries. Something that we all take for cranted nowadays can cause alot of problems if it is used in a negative way. So much of our informationis online now and can be accessed by almost anyone. Anyway it was interesting to see how the author wove everything together and kept you guessing. The cover on my book was different than the one above and I think I liked my cover better.
Great book to keep you company over a long weekend. ( )
  detweilermom | Jul 2, 2010 |
Alex Bellamy, 28, is unemployed and struggling to make ends meet after being fired from Revenue Canada. Lena, his 20-year-old girlfriend, gets him a job with her employer, McKinley's Department Store. Someone is trying to extort $10 million from the store chain's owners with threats of making McKinley's electronic files inaccessible. Alex is hired to figure out the code to unlock the store's files.

The McKinley patriarch is in declining health and his three children, who now run the stores, don't see eye-to-eye. The threesome make it difficult for Alex to get to the bottom of the threat. Alex also thinks the murder of Zachary Ternoway, brother of a former employee, may be tied to the extortion threat. Stir in a few former and current disgruntled employees and the pot gets even dicier. Luckily, Alex enlists the help of friend Tristan and former girlfriend Jillian.

Author Debra Purdy Kong weaves an exciting tale mixing murder with high-tech hacking. Suspects abound and readers will be surprised by some of the turns the story takes. I felt a connection with the characters, especially Alex and Jillian, and look forward to reading more Alex Bellamy adventures. I recommend "Fatal Encryption" to all mystery lovers. ( )
  DarcyO | Feb 13, 2010 |
A cyber-mystery with a cast of characters many of whom I would like to give a good shake and others whose foibles I find myself laughing and shaking my head over. Debra Purdy Kong is an award-winning author and with this book she has gained another fan. With a family corporate business going down the drain and the threat of a cyber-attack on all their computers, the dysfunctional family has hired Alex Bellamy to try to break the encryption codes set to go off and destroy the corporation's system as part of a complicated extortion plan.

The action mostly takes place in Port Moody and Coquitlam, an area in the southwest corner of British Columbia near Vancouver, where I happened to grow up, and the details of the area are well-defined and familiar. The book is surprisingly wrapped around several families in a neighborhood very like the real thing. Hallowe'en plays a big role in both what happened before and how some of the crimes are solved. I say crimes, because besides the threatened cyber-crime, there are two separate murders. Are they connected to each other? Are they connected to the threat and extortion plan? One character in the book says it best, in a take-off of Sherlock Holmes, "...when you've eliminated the probable, look for the improbable or, in this case, the damn-near impossible".

Being suburbia, the neighborhood is fairly tight-knit, and gossip runs high. The same can be said for the threatened store and employees. This gives the opportunity for the author to play with the reader who is trying to solve the crimes before the characters do. The book is well-written, the characters interact exactly as they should. With three previous computer experts prior to hiring Alex, there are lots of opportunities for diversions, misdirections and straight-out lies. The book picks up momentum as it goes along until a flat out race to the end. An easy and enjoyable read, I expect it will be an interesting and exciting series, This is the second of the Alex Bellamy mystery series. I'll be curious about what he will get himself into next. 4 ½ stars. ( )
  readerbynight | Feb 10, 2010 |
Alex has never been so embarrassed in his life when his somewhat younger girlfriend Lena makes him go to a costume party dressed as Kermit. Sure, she looks good as Miss Piggy, although he does notice she didn't go to the trouble of making herself a snout, but the green shoes were a bit too much. Everyone at the party were students at Simon Fraser University was a good eight years or more younger than Alex and he felt like a fool mingling amongst them.

As Lena and Alex were chatting she asked him yet again if he had given any more thought to taking the part time job she knew of as systems-analyst for McKinley's Department store. This ticked Alex off and for the third time in a week, he told her firmly, "No!"

Reminding him that he was between temp jobs and that he needed to get some sort of job to pay the growing stack of bills on his desk, Lena kept on. Working for McKinley's herself, Lena had inside information that the job might not just be a temp job, that it might turn into a full time position and that appealed to Alex much more than the temp jobs he'd been doing as of late.

But, not wanting Lena to know, Alex had to admit to himself that the job did sound interesting and he did need the money to boot. Since his last full time job 18 months ago, he was beginning to get interested in a full time job again, but first he had to get through the next few hours at this silly party.

Meanwhile on the other side of town, the Quesnel's were throwing the Halloween party of the century. Never to do anything halfway, Celeste, in a somewhat exceptionally revealing costume, had created the party to end all parties and everyone was having a ball. Everyone that is, except for Gloria who was on her way home after her drug loving husband Max had made a fool out of both of them at the party with her children Devon and Kimberly in tow. Leaving him dancing on a table, she figured she'd deal with him later when he was sober enough and they had some privacy.

Though her anger at her husband was at an all time high, it quickly dissipated when she almost literally stumbled upon her brother in law Zach, lying in the foyer of her house, with a steak knife firmly stuck in his back, blood pooling around him.

Sending the kids to a neighbors house, Gloria frantically called 911 to report the stabbing then waited for the emergency team to arrive. Though she tried to help Zach, it was too late and by the time the EMT's got there, he was dead. Neighbor Jimmy arrived about this time and asked what was going on and the bile Gloria had tried so hard to contain, chose that moment to make it's entrance, as she leaned over and heaved all over the crime scene.

In another part of town Alex was still arguing with Lena about the job at McKinley's. trying to ignore Lena as he concentrated on entertaining three month old Kerri-ann Wells, daughter of his office mate, Tristin. Seeing a "nesting" look come into Lena's eyes, Alex tried to change the subject by asking more about the problem at McKinleys. It seemed that the prior analyst Carl Appanheimer had been fired but before he left he changed the passwords on all the computers. But other pranks had begun to appear as well including the cursor giving the famous middle finger salute and other obnoxious pranks including changing everyone’s passwords. But it got serious fast when the next prank consisted of leaving a list of all of the executive's salaries on every computer. That was when McKinley's knew they had a problem and needed someone with some computer savvy to fix it before it got any worse.

After reading the morning paper and hearing of Zachary Ternway's death and his connection with McKinley through his brother Max, Alex began to think this temp job might not be so boring after all. Maybe he could catch the hack and pay some bills in the process not to mention find out what was really going on with the hack and the trouble that seemed to be growing more serious everyday.

Giving in to financial responsibility as well as curiosity, Alex signed a short term contract. Lena bubbling with excitement thought she was part of the "team" when in fact T.J. McKinley, VP of finance made it clear that Alex's search for the hack was highly confidential and that no one was to know of his actions. Alex was sure he'd figure out the problem and get out of there ASAP. After all the Compu-datz company had fixed the main problems before they closed their doors and the system had just been updated to Windows XP. Alex figured it would be something relatively simple and his job would be a breeze.

Meeting the crew was an experience in itself with Oscar, the brother who cared more about his attire than his job, as well as being a font of gossip about McKinley's. As they traveled the halls, he told Max that sons T.J. and Winston were to no ones surprise the forerunners to inherit the store when Harold McKinley Sr. died. But their differences were like black and white. T.J. wanted to to close half of the 30 stores while Winston wanted to expand and invest in other business'. Their opinions about how the business should be run were as different as night and day and it was apparent that whoever McKinley Sr. picked to be his successor would make waves with his changes.

Daughter Elizabeth came into the picture with a letter sent anonymously not extoling the virtues of McKinley's store but instead threatening to make each and every electronic file in all McKinley stores permanently inaccessible unless the powers that be hand over ten million dollars by December first.

Elizabeth explains to a somewhat shell shocked Alex that the letter writer claims that the previous pranks were just to show how vulnerable the stores computer system really was.

Discussing the problem and eliminating all possibilities that the prankster turned extortionist is no dummy, the fact of the matter comes out that Alex has only two short weeks to figure out who did this and fix the system so it is hacker free. Alex agrees to take the job and goes off to meet Sibley, Len's boss.

Sibley and Alex it turns out, have a past. About a year ago, Alex and Elizabeth had a romance and because Sibley did not approve, Alex's assignments grew lesser and lesser until he was not needed anymore, a fact that Sibley had planned all along. Alex maintains that Sibley is jealous of the relationship and has a thing for Elizabeth who laughs off his opinion.

Meeting in Sibley's office, awkward as it may be, they discuss the situation and everyone's opinion of who the hack might be. Coming to no concrete conclusion except that the hack must be caught before December first, Alex is off to work.

Meeting Perry Ford, head of security, Alex decides immediately that he doesn't like this guy, in fact, he doesn't even trust him much despite Lena's glowing reports that since Ford came aboard, shoplifting has dropped and he's the reason why. When he leaves the area, Alex quizzes Lena about Perry wanting to know about his attitude. When told Perry is just frustrated he can't fix what the problem is, Alex is skeptical but keeps his opinions to himself as it is apparent that Lena likes Perry.

During the ensuing time, it is decided that Alex will work undercover and that from now on, he will only be known as a "computer tech" and as far as the staff is concerned, he isn't doing anything out of the ordinary. Because of the panic that might occur, should the contents of the hack's letter get out, this seems the prudent thing to do and Alex agrees.

Meeting later at Tristan and Alex's office, Lena joins them for pizza as they discuss the problems at McKinley and the individuals working within. Alex tells them that the job is going to be tough with only two weeks to go. But that he'd talked to Sibley about working alone. Begrudgingly, Sibley agrees that another set of hands and another computer whiz (Tristan) would be a great deal of help. So they're off, thinking that in no time the hack will be found and all will be well. Agreeing that there are a lot of suspects just in the office itself, the task ahead of Alex suddenly seems to be growing larger and larger . Figuring that half of the money McKinley was going to pay him is better than nothing, he and Tristan began brainstorming as to who could the hack be,.

At this point things escalate, Alex receives a notes telling him, "DON'T INVESTIGATE, OR ELSE,"
This irritates him to no end and when he and Lena later go to Graydon's party, his nerves are on edge, wondering who is behind the notes and wants him out. The party is a big affair with it seems every room packed with employees. Meeting up with Lucas, he brags that he in fact knows who the hack is. But he won't tell, asking Max why he wants to know anyway, he isn't really working for McKinley anyway. Coming to his rescue, Lena comments that Max hates hacks and is curious as to who did it. Continuing on the evening gets more interesting as Max picks up tid bits here and there from employees without their notice. Splitting up as one does, Lena decides to try to find Alex. As Lena and Celeste begin to go down a staircase to the kitchen, they hear a ruckus. Carl and Max are arguing. ending with Carl bolting from the house and heading for his car. As Max falls trying to stop Carl, Alex continues the chase in a taxi, where he finally finds Carl has T-boned another vehicle, with Grayson standing over him. Surprised to see him there, Max asks why he is there to which Graydon simply states, I was chasing him trying to stop him. A statement that strikes a different cord in him. Was Graydon really trying to stop Carl or did he have a different reason for joining in on the fast paced, dangerous chase?

Returning back to work at McKinleys, after spending the weekend with a horrible case of food poisoning, he walks into a hotbed of irritation and fear. Another letter has been found. This one states the ante has risen to fifteen million dollars and if the note isn't taken seriously, the business will be torched. With only a little over a week to go, things begin to get tense and Alex is no closer to finding the hack than he was a week ago to finding the encryption keys and saving the computer system from freezing up or worse, losing all it's data.

All broken up about Carl's death, thinking isn't straight in the office and Alex begins to suspect there might be something after all to this threat especially after his recent long discussion with Perry. Thinking there Carl's death was due to the crash, Alex and Lena discover from Carl's wife Rosemary that Carl in fact died as a result of an allergic reaction to Valium as well as having been poisoned with rhubarb leaves. Suddenly the food poisoning makes sense. It wasn't a simple case of food poisoning that left Alex, Lena and many of the guests ill, it was the rhubarb leaf poisoning most likely mixed into the salad. This puts another slant on things. Who was supposed to eat enough salad to be poisoned severely or did the guilty party just want to take the focus off the problems at McKinley by causing mass illness, thus diverting suspicion?

Later, meeting after store hours, Alex and the VP's discuss all the events thus far. Facts, rumors, accusations and just plain insults flu through the office. Meanwhile Alex is nowhere closer to knowing who is behind he extortion plan than before and the hours are ticking away.

As Alex gets closer to discovering the hack and finding the encryption, fires begin to break out. First there is Alex's condo, then Tristan's office and finally the executive floor of the McKinley building with all the VP's trapped in an office. It seems obvious to all that the threat of setting fire to McKinley’s is serious.

The secrets Alex finds, the information he digs up and the people he exposes for what they are make this an absolutely "can't wait to turn the pages" sort of book. Although it takes some time to sort out all the players and where they fit in; when that is accomplished, the book takes on a life of it's own.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries, computers or perhaps a combination of the two. It is a page turner with more than one surprise coming at the reader, that not only were unexpected, but make one shake one's head in disbelief. The author keeps the reader glued to the book until the final sentence, and to this review, that is reason enough to get this book and immerse yourself in it. Read it and see for yourself what makes Fatal Encryption one electrifying read! ( )
  Susan_Pettrone | Jan 22, 2010 |
I'm not normally a reader of this genre but I found this book a real page-turner -- I read 259 pp in one evening!!! Kong has firm control of her story and the plot rolls out at a good pace. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Jan 14, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 096992111X, Perfect Paperback)

Dressed as Kermit the Frog on Halloween night, an unemployed Alex Bellamy wonders where his life went wrong. It could be worse. A few miles away, Zachary Ternoway is stabbed at his front door. In need of cash, Alex agrees to help catch a computer prankster at McKinleys' Department Store. But things turn serious when someone vows to permanently encrypt the store's data and torch the building unless ten million dollars is handed over in two weeks. Alex knows there's a connection between the murder and the extortion threat, yet time's running out. People are questioning his competency, and a killer's threatening his life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:04 -0400)

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