A riveting tale of an innocent family on the run. Gavin and Lisa Brinkley have had an easy life; they and their two daughters live a life of affluence and privilege in Pleasanton, Calif., a wealthy suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Brinkleys are looking to move to Boston, where they hope to offer their daughters superior schools—and superior sports teams. Gavin’s fluency in security codes lands him an opportunity to give a presentation at a high-powered corporation—a seemingly innocuous afternoon that leads to a dark and threatening future almost immediately. First, the Brinkleys are tailgated to and from a family outing by an unfamiliar car; later, they find that two of the tires on their car have been tampered with. When Gavin and Lisa are then warned by an FBI agent that their lives could be in immediate danger, they set about re-creating themselves: The entire family changes their names and personal information—Gavin becomes “John,” Lisa becomes “Cindy”—and they undertake the first of many moves which eventually lead them to Montana. Gavin and Lisa—together with Cate, Gavin’s beautiful and somewhat suspicious associate—spend their new lives looking over their shoulders, and soon, the plot shifts to a story of high-stakes hacking. The Stuarts, a father-and-daughter team, create a fast-paced and gripping tale of intrigue and suspense, heightening the tension as the storyline advances. Their no-nonsense, straightforward prose also contains frequent moments of insight and charm (“Fear snaps on like a light at the moment the anxious wake up”; “Halloween approached New England dressed in autumn’s natural splendor of orange and gold.”).
An all-too-realistic tale of cyberterrorism.
Four out of five stars.
At a time when everyday life is fully dependent on technology, the idea of cyber warfare seems increasingly plausible. As Hiding in Sunshine’s main protagonist, Gavin Brinkley, notes, “Everyone is connected and our lives are the better for it, yet that same global connectivity is a wonderful opportunity for criminals.” Coauthors John and Caitlin Stuart weave a suspenseful and thoughtful tale around just such a premise.
Gavin and Lisa Brinkley undoubtedly have it all. Thanks to Gavin’s brilliance as a network security expert, they are wealthy and able to offer the best of everything to their two young daughters. However, their lives change drastically when they are told that a dangerous cyber-criminal network has targeted them. After moving across the country and assuming new identities, the Brinkleys hope that they will one day be free to reclaim their old lives.
As the Brinkley family becomes accustomed to their new, relatively anonymous existence, a nefarious plot against the United States is brewing in the background. It’s aimed at Internet networks, affecting everything from personal bank accounts to the stock market and national power grid. The government is unprepared for such an assault, “as 99 percent of the defense budget was still being channeled into preparations for conventional wars.” As the attacks escalate, Gavin tries to get to the bottom of them using his own extensive knowledge, in spite of the danger of exposure.
Hiding in Sunshine is an ambitious novel. The attention to detail is top-notch; the plot requires that a great deal of technological information is explored and most is described clearly enough for readers to grasp. The sheer volume of information occasionally drags down the action, however, and may be daunting for some readers.
Characterization is thorough, and the Brinkleys are likeable. Readers will empathize with the couple as they struggle to adjust to their new life and find their way back to their old one. Supporting characters are explored with depth suitable to their roles in the story, from family friends to FBI agents and the criminals responsible for the hacking attacks. The plot is compelling and maintains reader interest.
There is a tendency to tell rather than show, which results in a few instances of unnatural dialogue (characters discuss issues only for the benefit of the reader). However, for the most part, the prose is smooth and natural, as is the majority of dialogue. The story’s structure is sound, and the tale flows effectively from start to finish. There are few grammatical errors. The conclusion of the novel does include the disclosure of a subplot not previously shared with the reader, but the satisfying ending contains enough clever and unexpected moments that readers will likely overlook the belated subplot.
Hiding in Sunshine is an effectively written, engaging novel with a thought-provoking and timely plot. It’s a promising debut.
Hiding in Sunshine is a debut thriller from a father-daughter writing team that follows a family on the run.
As the novel begins, Gavin and Lisa Brinkley are living in Massachusetts with their two daughters. Gavin’s career as a high-tech inventor has afforded them an affluent lifestyle. But his work makes him and his family the target of a gang of Serbian cyber-criminals, and the FBI spirits them away into new identities and lives in Idaho.
Just as the family members become accustomed to their new circumstances, they are forced to run again, this time with no support from the government – or anyone else. After fleeing to Montana, they befriend Bruce and Maloney, an “off-gridder” couple who teach them survival skills. But threats are never far behind: from the gangsters targeting the family, Gavin’s occasional urges to join the “dark side” in the cyber wars, tension in Gavin and Lisa’s marriage and their elder daughter’s desire to go to boarding school in Concord and discover the secrets of her family’s past.
The best genre novels concern themselves with more than plot and characters; they also reflect social anxieties and aspirations. Authors John Stuart and Caitlin Stuart subtly weave the subject of American social mobility, both upward and downward, throughout the novel, giving the story great emotional resonance. The Brinkleys’ loving but complicated relationships with each other are movingly and realistically rendered, and the topical nature of the technological threat they face lends urgency to the story. Like many thrillers, Hiding in Sunshine occasionally suffers from “info dumping,” or exposition through lengthy and unrealistic passages of dialogue. Transcripts of government meetings also slow the pace, distracting from the much more interesting family dynamics.
This occasional clunkiness aside, Hiding in Sunshine is a compelling debut, and the well-drawn character of the teenage daughter could give it crossover appeal to the young adult market.