Black Nowhere by Reece Hirsch is a fast-paced read that will have readers question the benefits of social media. The story explores the price of success, how far is someone willing to go to achieve that success, and how can female FBI agents succeed in a male dominated world?
Scarily realistic it is based on the true story of Ross Ulbricht, the young man who founded the Dark Web market place Silk Road, and became a drug kingpin. In the book, brilliant college student Nate Fallon starts a website on the “Dark Web.” He wants to see how efficient he can make the illegal drug trade by creating a kind of eBay for illicit pharmaceuticals and other black-market products. Not only does he end up making more money than he’d ever dreamed possible, he draws the attention of FBI Special Agent Lisa Tanchik and a Mexican criminal drug organization represented by the mysterious “El Chingon.”
“The character of Nate Fallon was inspired by the true story of Ross Ulbricht, the young man who founded the Dark Web market place Silk Road. When I read the reporting about Ulbricht, I could never quite understand how this smart, likeable, middle-class kid evolved into a criminal kingpin who allegedly ended up ordering hits to protect his empire. When I wrote the character of Nate Fallon, I was trying to get inside that type of person’s head in a way that a journalist can’t and show, step by step, how his initial idealism gave way to the dark side. At his hearing, the judge said, “There is a lot of good in you, but a lot of bad also. I am putting you away for the bad part.””
Special Agent Lisa Tanchik is the best at taking down cybercriminals. After the FBI discovers an on-line multibillion-dollar black-market, she is tasked with finding the creator and bringing him to justice. Donning one of her many digital disguises, Tanchik goes undercover into the network. Although readers find out that she has struggles with alcohol abuse and depression, she still comes across as relatable, confident, and knowledgeable in her attempt to bring down the villain Nate Fallon.
“I wanted to write her as not the typical stereotype FBI Agent. People think of that square jaw look. I wanted to imagine a cyber specialist who might not fit in to that stereotype. There is still the old school mentality. As I put in the book, they are described as “geeks with guns.” I think people like Lisa still have an obstacle to overcome, while trying to advance through the FBI. This story had Lisa take the lead, but in the real take-down there were a lot of different agencies involved, all fighting for that glory. She is a badass, confident, and someone with special talents who is able to develop an on-line persona. She is a technology geek who is blunt. To the consternation of her fellow FBI agents she enjoys TV shows like “Firefly” and “Buffy The Vampire.””
Besides being a riveting thriller-mystery this novel explores the front in the war on drugs. Technology can be very useful, but it also has its demons, and this story shows that in graphic terms.