[Sponsored] Read an excerpt from Peter Church’s thriller Crackerjack, part of LAPA’s Quarantine Reading List of ebooks

Lapa Publishers has shared an excerpt from Crackerjack, book one of Peter Church’s Dark Web Trilogy!

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About the book:

When a reformed hacker is called in to solve a businessman’s mysterious disappearance, the hunt quickly becomes deadly.

Carla Vitale has been handpicked to run Supertech, Africa’s leading independent engineering firm. Then one Friday afternoon in Cape Town, her dream is shattered. Her boss and mentor, Nial Townley, disappears, his luxury vehicle is found in a crevice at the bottom of Chapman’s Peak, and 20 million is missing from the Supertech’s overseas accounts. Three months later and the police are no closer to solving the riddle.

No job, no car, no phone, Carla turns to the one person she believes can help: software hacker turned day-trader, Daniel Le Fleur. But Le Fleur’s maintaining a low profile in Bantry Bay and he’s in no mood to ruin the serendipity.

Read the excerpt:


Chapter 5

On a liquid crystal screen, another Van Gogh masterpiece flickered. His hobby was copying a master. He had settled on Van Gogh as his new subject and spent a week deliberating his next target. The Potato Eaters was under contemplation. He felt no attachment to the peasants and their supper under the lamplight. He stepped away and wandered into the kitchen, shifted the rubbish bin behind the door. The kitchen counters were clean, no stacked dishes, no notes attached to magnets on the fridge door.

He sighed, opened the fridge, and stared inside, unsure if he were hungry or not. He removed a brown packet and inspected the contents: Nando’s peri-peri chicken, mild, two days old. He replaced the packet and closed the fridge.

He left the kitchen and strolled across the open plan living room. He could still smell her perfume, her disappointment.

He unclipped his cast and massaged his fractured wrist, stared out the window towards the horizon.

What an unusual day.

First the altercation with the trainer …

Then a stranger breezes into his apartment asking him to break laws so she can find her missing boss.

Who was the last woman who sat on his couch? Or came through the door of No. 4? He could not recall.

He was sure she had come dressed for the occasion, assumed he would fall all over himself to help an attractive woman. He could not tell if the tears and the emotion were part of the act.

There were four internal cameras in his apartment disguised as LED lights. If he wished, he could replay Carla’s visit, including their conversation. He also had external cameras covering Victoria Road and linked to software using license plate recognition (LPR). He had customised the system using open source stubs downloaded from a public directory of software, and linked it to the national car registration for tracking purposes.

He looked at the unfinished game of backgammon on the coffee table. He wondered if she had guessed he played games against himself. Perhaps she had wondered about the plunge pool on the patio and the white gowns and carefully folded towels.

He pumped his fist lightly into his other hand then looked at his image in a mirror on the wall. Black long-sleeve T-shirt with ‘Keep your coins, I want change’ logo and straight blue jeans, bare feet. Maybe the Mr Robot thing was not so far off. His hair needed a cut.

She must think he lived a sad and empty life.

He picked up the remote and activated the metal gate on the far side of his apartment. The gate rose automatically, revealing a room of chrome furniture, multiple screens on counters, mounted on the walls and suspended from the ceiling. He named it ‘The Chrome Room’. There were no windows. An array of computer gear twinkled in a large rack. When not in use, his processors mined Bitcoin transactions for a small share of the cryptocurrency booty. A cooling tower fanned cold air onto the system.

On the far side of the room behind a wooden panel was a spotless work bench with an attached vice. A soldering iron and pair of miniature pliers were the only tools on the bench. Various tools were suspended from hooks on the wall. A glass cabinet consisting of plastic jars containing screws and plugs and connectors was in reach of the bench. A large cupboard on the other side of the bench was closed.

He entered and illuminated the room, examined a scrolling screen of flashing digital numbers and graphs. He paused on a display of the London stock exchange, noticed the Footsie indices were up, all except the tech stocks.

You’re a gambler?

Day trading had been logical. The thousands of hours playing Grand Theft Auto and Dwarf Fortress had honed his single-minded assiduousness. Other than concentration, all it needed was good news or bad news. He bought and sold shares online, holding the position for the rest of the day, and sometimes into the next day, before liquidating. Initially he incurred losses, but as his understanding of peaks and troughs grew, his profits increased. The business required volatility not normality or moderation. The enemy was no news. He spent many hours of each day trolling the web for information and opportunities.

But now he had something else on his mind.


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