Matt Richtel, Hooked: A thriller about love and other addictions. Warner Books, 2007. Pp. 292. ISBN 9780446580083. $24.99 / £17.99.

Reviewed by Karina Kantas

A journalist is sitting in a coffee house when a mysterious brunette leaves a note on the edge of his table. As he runs out after her, the café explodes. Nat opens the note and recognizes the writing to be from his girlfriend who’s been dead for four years.

A great start to an energetic thriller.

Nathaniel (Nat) Idle is the narrator of this tale. He’s a medical journalist who’s still mourning for his girlfriend years after the tragic boat accident. Their love was powerful, almost an addiction.

Annie Kindle, Nat’s deceased girlfriend, worked for her father, Glenn Kindle, director of Kindle Investments, until the tragic accident. She was funny, loved life and a very smart business woman.

Sergeant Danny Weller is a San Francisco cop. He doesn’t like his lieutenant and works with Nat to solve the puzzle.

Lieutenant Aravelo is in charge of the investigation into the Sunshine Café bombing. His brother, Timothy Aravelo, was the cop convicted for beating up a Malaysian prostitute. It was one of Nat’s articles that put T. Aravelo away.

Erin Coultran, a survivor of the blast, is the waitress at the café. She and Nat become friends and discover evidence of a conspiracy.

Friends or Foes? Nat is warned not to trust anyone. Hooked has a great build up in every chapter and adds more questions to the ‘who done it, and why.’ Twist and turns leave the reader wanting more. Hooked is almost an addiction in itself. Flashbacks of Annie’s and Nat’s relationship give the reader a break from the pace. However, there are too many, leaving the reader hoping that the dead girlfriend is going to play a huge part in the plot. Keep reading. Yes, it is important. The flashbacks play a key part of the story.

Just like in The Da Vinci Code, our main character is thrown together with a woman as they both desperately search for the answers. But unlike Dan Brown's over-rated thriller, this has nothing to do with religion. Hooked, is novel about mystery, murder and mayhem caused by a hard-core digital revolution. Nothing is what it seems. No one is who they claim to be. Everything is a conspiracy.

Another explosion and the plot thickens. Mr Richtel enjoys blowing things up, but it is the cleanest way to get rid of evidence and those that are getting too close to the truth. Nat finds himself in more than one life-threatening situation. Yet there are those behind the scenes who are looking out for him.

Can the use of computers become addictive? Richtel wants you to believe this, and comes up with an original idea of what causes this addiction.

Hooked is an easy read. You won’t find yourself skipping through pages of detail. This is straight storytelling at its best. Readers will jump to their own conclusion about what’s going on, but you’ll be jumping too high! The twist at the end will leave you breathless. The conclusion is like being caught in one of Richtel’s bomb blasts. It will leave you stunned and your mind reeling.

Can you digitalize love? Richtel seems to think so, and as Technology and Telecommunications writer for the New York Times, maybe we’re going to have to trust him. The closing epilogue will leave you with the questions:

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