Book Review: Captcha Thief by Rosie Claverton

Book: Captcha Thief by Rosie ClavertonI heard Rosie Claverton speaking about mental health in crime fiction at a recent literary festival, and was intrigued by her protagonist Amy Lane, who suffers from agoraphobia. I ended up reading Captcha Thief, which is actually the third book in this series, but it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the first two – I was hooked from the very first page.   

The plot centres around the robbery of a painting – the famous Blue Lady (La Parisienne by Renoir) from the National Museum of Wales, and the brutal murder of a security guard who happened upon the thief. But this is no ordinary theft, and no ordinary investigation – with suspicious behaviour shown by a whole host of museum visitors, an unusual quantity of sand and, stranger still, no real evidence that the thief ever left the museum…

Claverton has based her crime books in Cardiff, and it feels strange to read about characters walking the streets I know so well. There is a strong sense of place in this book, and it feels very real. Amy Lane spends her days trawling the internet for information, hacking into security systems and CCTV, tracking her personal assistant Jason, and following up leads on social media. She’s effectively an outsourced cyber crime specialist, working for the police, holed up in her own home and doing everything remotely. Her anxiety prevents her from leaving, but she gets frustrated when she can’t tell what’s going on.

Rosie Claverton at Crime Fiction Festival

Rosie Claverton discussing mental health in crime ficion at the recent ‘Crime and Coffee’ festival in Cardiff

Jason does all the leg work for Amy, but is easily drawn off track when a particularly good looking officer from the National Crime Agency (Frieda Haas) decides to head to North Wales in search of clues. He follows her, certain that they are catching up with a ring of international criminals and willing to do whatever it takes. Meanwhile Amy is left to fend for herself, frustrated and anxious, unable to do anything but track their movements from a distance.

But Amy soon begins to realise that this is more than just a simple robbery gone wrong. There is something odd about the behaviour of Frieda Haas, and several loose ends that don’t add up. She cannot be sure who to trust and, without Jason, she begins to realise just how vulnerable she is, afraid that her own troubled past might be coming back to haunt her.

Captcha Thief is full of twists and turns, dead-ends and suspicion, but it’s also based on believable characters – Amy and Jason have their own secrets to hide, and must trust their instincts in order to protect themselves. The murder investigation soon becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Claverton has created a character with a complex backstory and intriguing motivations. There is tension too, as Amy becomes more and more aware of just how much she relies on Jason, and how much he means to her. This is a fast-paced crime thriller that is impossible to put down, and I’ve already placed a library request for the next Amy Lane mystery – Terror 404.

Read more – Rosie Claverton discussing mental health in crime fiction with fellow writer Matt Johnson at the Crime and Coffee Festival.

Buy this book via Amazon