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There's something intriguing about a book that shamelessly ranges
so far afield from our everyday lives and describes the intricate
machinations of a plot that involves the IRS, the FBI, a high-tech
software firm in Austin, Texas, a couple of good-looking kids from
California, and a Cuban freedom fighter with a cadre of
professional killers at his beck and call. To call such a thing a
conspiracy would be like calling Fidel Castro just another wacky,
cigar-smoking, bearded dude.

We don't believe a word of stories like this, of course, but that
doesn't make them any less entertaining. R. J. Pineiro's
CONSPIRACY.COM, the author's ninth novel, is just such a book. In
it, Pineiro combines his intimate knowledge of computer systems
with a native curiosity for what makes the good guys and the bad
guys tick to come up with something just a bit out of the

The plot is ironic and timely given the current situation with the
FBI and their, ahem, housekeeping problems: Agent Karen Frost, sick
of watching her partners (both professional and personal) being
blown away by ruthless criminals, is dead set on kicking some good
old-fashioned tail. Revenge, after all, is a dish best served cold.
Aside from a couple too many plays-on-words on her icy demeanor,
Frost is a cool character who keeps the plot moving along and isn't
too much of a stiff to take one for the team (a scene where she get
hits twice with silenced rifle fire is especially chilling).

Even as Frost is getting knocked around Austin, Michael and
Victoria Ryan, newly minted Stanford degrees in hand, get enticed
into accepting jobs in the ultra-hip Texas capital. Let the games

Michael, who works for SoftCorp, a company that is secretly
hoarding some of the best computer talent in the country, has
developed sophisticated software for interfacing virtual reality
programs with the needs of the everyday business world. Little does
he know that the one client his firm handles --- a little
organization we pay homage (and occasionally a whole lot more) to
every April 15 --- is getting ripped off by a bunch of very crafty
hooligans who despise American imperialism and envision a Cuba
unfettered by Castro's kindheartedness.

All of this works, though Pineiro is careful not to transcend any
cyberthriller stereotypes. The stock characters make their
obligatory appearances --- ridiculously wealthy, oversexed boss
with a knockout smile and a series of knockout blondes on his arm;
the tough-as-nails FBI agent with a vendetta; the crooked
politician; the sadistic Hispanic assassin who, even on paper,
looks and sounds a whole lot like Benicio del Toro --- and the only
question of any importance isn't what will happen, but rather

Still, the story's pacing and the tech toys' sexiness are more than
enough to carry the day. The virtual reality scenes are done with a
flair and restraint that has been absent from this genre since Eric
Harry pulled it off in SOCIETY OF THE MIND five years ago.
Apparently, we've come far enough past the "gee whiz" stage of VR
development that the technology can be integrated fairly seamlessly
into the storyline.

The writing and editing, though a bit sketchy in places --- "The
FBI director found himself staring at the very face of death;" "He
had seen enough death and destruction in his life to last him
twenty lifetimes" --- is serviceable. It's the story here that
should get all the credit, and Pineiro has a knack for striking the
right chords.

If the information on the inside of Pineiro's latest book is
correct, he has plans to publish two more books in the next two
years. Given what he has accomplished in CONSPIRACY.COM,
cyberthriller fans have something to look forward to.

Reviewed by Patrick Smith on January 21, 2011
by R. J. Pineiro

  • Publication Date: April 14, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312869088
  • ISBN-13: 9780312869083