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STOLEN by Daniel Palmer: Book Review

Daniel Palmer’s latest novel, Stolen, opens with a terrifying premise.  Imagine getting the news that a loved one has been diagnosed with a rare type of cancer.  You are devastated, distraught, but you cling to the hope that the drug the doctor has prescribed will cure the disease.

Then you find out that your insurance company will not pay for the brand-name version of this drug; they will only pay for the generic drug.  You explain to the insurance agent that the doctor has told you that the generic drug is not available so that your loved one must take the brand-name one.  Sorry, says the agent, we won’t pay for that.  And the cost of the brand-name drug over the course of treatment will be three hundred thousand dollars.

This is the situation facing John and Ruby Bodine.  Verbilifide is the drug recommended to combat Ruby’s illness, and when John discovers that another insurance company would cover Verbilifide he devises a plan to get that drug.  He’s going to hack into that company’s files and take over the identity of one of its clients.  Then he’ll submit the appropriate forms as that client so that Ruby will get the necessary medication.

John has created a computer game called OneWorld.  He doesn’t charge people to play and makes his money by selling them virtual items that appear online.  While waiting for OneWorld to become a huge success, the couple is paying for Ruby’s schooling plus the usual expenses of housing, food, car insurance.  There’s barely enough money for that; money for Verbilifide simply isn’t there.

Using his computer skills, John creates a new life for himself and Ruby–new names, new apartment, new credit cards.  Ruby doesn’t like this plan, knows it’s dishonest, but as her illness starts taking over she doesn’t have the strength to fight for her point of view.  A few weeks pass, Verbilifide is working, and John and Ruby are now Elliot and Tanya Uretsky, submitting claims to “their” insurer, UniSol.

And then their phone rings.  Who could be calling them at their new, unlisted number; only UniSol has it.  When John picks up the phone, at first there doesn’t appear to be anyone at the other end.  But then a raspy voice begins to talk.  “My name is Elliot Uretsky, and I believe you stole my identity.”

We’ve all heard or read about identity theft.  Perhaps we know someone who was the victim of it, perhaps it even happened to you.  It’s a scary feeling, realizing that someone has tapped into your life, usually for the purpose of taking your money.  Although that isn’t John’s reason for “becoming” Elliot Uretsky, and his reason is a much more benign and understandable one, the reader recognizes that a crime has been committed here.  But when the “real” Elliot Uretsky appears on the scene, one’s sympathies shift entirely in John’s favor.  Mr. Uretsky is not a nice man.

Daniel Palmer has written a true page-turner, a thriller I promise you won’t be able to put down.  You can read more about him at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.