Nicole Jones lives a very quiet life on Block Island. She gives bike tours, sells a few paintings at a local gallery and doesn’t even own a computer. She has a few close friends and sticks close to home. In fact, she has not left the island since she came fifteen years ago.
Hidden is the story of what happens when someone from her past shows up. Suddenly, her quiet life is anything but and her friends learn that there is far more to Nicole than what they knew or would have ever suspected. We soon learn she is an infamous hacker who pulled off a massive theft years ago, a theft that went disastrously wrong and she is now hunted not only by her former partner, but a vicious organized crime lord, and the FBI.
Luckily for her, hacking is just like riding a bike. It’s not like the internet changed, that firewalls improved or that new code languages were developed in the last fifteen years. So, within minutes of opening up a laptop for the first time in fifteen years, she’s hidden behind a virtual private network, hacking into neighbor’s wi-fi and breaking into the FBI and huge commercial banks. Meanwhile, she is astonished by YouTube and podcasts.
She’s also fortunate that the local police keep leaving messages with friends that they are looking for her without actually, you know, looking for her. She rides her bike, a borrowed moped and walks around town, stopping for coffee, staying at a local B&B and goes shopping with only the slightest interference from the FBI and none from the locals. You would think, too, that a cordon on the island for an infamous fugitive that draws the FBI would draw roadblocks and security gates at all forms of exit from the island. You would be wrong.
I think you can tell that this book requires you to suspend more than your usual share of disbelief. And yet, in the end, I liked this book and that is sort of confounding, isn’t it? Yes, I wish the book was less sloppy about the details, but I liked the character’s efforts to save herself without relying on others to save her–even though some assistance was offered and accepted, her impulse was to isolate her friends from danger. I loved the strong sense of place and the lovely descriptions of the island. I felt like I was there. I liked the strong friendships she had with people who recognized she had lied to them, but recognized a fundamental truth about her, that at heart she was a good person. I thought it was suspenseful when I was not rolling my eyes about the on-again, off-again jeopardy and some of the plot holes such as the shamefully inept Chief of Police Frank Cooper who could not catch a fugitive leading a marching band past his office or laughing at the idea that someone can take a fifteen year hiatus from something that changes as rapidly as the internet and conquer it so quickly.
Sometimes, it is fun to just ignore the potholes and read straight through, enjoying what is good and shrugging off the ridiculous. I would be less forgiving if the author made any pretension to being a serious novelist, but she does not. She’s not trying to change the world, she just wants to tell a fun story. At that she succeeds.