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The Hanged Man's Song    by John Sandford order for
Hanged Man's Song
by John Sandford
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

When Kidd isn't working in his art studio in Minneapolis he's conducting business of another sort - hacking information and selling it to the highest bidder. Kidd and his sidekick, cat burglar LuEllen, are about to head south on a job when Kidd gets word that his cyber friend Bobby has gone silent. Within hacker circles Bobby is considered the best in the business. Kidd has a 'bad feeling' that somebody as good as or better than Bobby has finally managed to break through his meticulous firewalls and shut him down, maybe even permanently.

Kidd's bad feeling is confirmed when he finds Bobby bludgeoned to death in his living room. He soon discovers that Bobby's laptop is missing, and with it delicate information that could incriminate not only Kidd but also anybody else who's ever made contact with or traded information with Bobby. Kidd's priority is to find the laptop and with it Bobby's killer, and to even the score. But the killer has a lethal bargaining chip - the myriad secrets stored away inside Bobby's hard drive, some of which could bring down the highest levels of government.

This is the fourth in Sandford's series featuring artist and whiz bang computer hacker Kidd. First person narration keeps Kidd in full control of the story, his often quirky outlook on life and the people he deals with. He offers no apologies for 'moonlighting' on the wrong side of the law, but despite the light tone, often finds himself matching wits or getting in the crosshairs of downright nasty characters. Since this episode has numerous references to previous jobs, readers new to the series would be well advised to search out earlier adventures to get a better feel for Kidd, his on-again off-again lover and professional thief, LuEllen, and various secondaries.

John Sandford delivers another stylish, lean and gripping adventure in The Hanged Man's Song, whose 'cyber speak' is not only fascinating but downright scary, and makes you wonder how many real hackers are online at any given moment prowling for information and selling it for fun and/or profit.

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