Book Review: Black Sands, a Suspense Thriller by Carl Goodman

The Bottom Line:  A provocative cat-and-mouse thriller about cybercrime, hacking culture and the terrifying implications of artificial intelligence.

Can machines think? And if they can, what would happen if they started to lie? Those are the central questions in Carl Goodman’s new thriller, Black Sands.

On an otherwise normal Sunday morning, Jackie – a 23-year-old account executive with a public relations agency – is setting up a photo shoot for Northdale Bank. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose. Moments later, Jackie finds herself running from a man with a shotgun who’s demanding his money.

Who’s the gunman? Why did this happen? Everyone knows banks aren’t even supposed to be open on Sunday.

Enter Carl Goodman’s heroine, Lauren Cassel. She’s a clever attorney who hires hacker Danny Bowen to discover who stole 30 million pounds from her company’s Forex accounts. Danny, a former member of the cyber-terror group Nameless, is exactly the kind of person Lauren needs to find out who – or what – is behind the attacks.

Despite its premise, Black Sands isn’t simply page-after-page of online sleuthing. Goodman manages to create a believable cyber-investigative procedural while focusing most of the action in the real world. Think machine guns, planes and helicopters, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. But to be clear, the book’s premise sets it miles apart from your average action thriller.

Last year, Stephen Hawking warned the world that we should fear artificial intelligence, and Black Sands does nothing to allay those fears. There’s no blueprint for the world Goodman has created, which makes riding along with Laura and Danny such a joy. This is one page-turner that will forever change the way you look at our connected world.

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