Duel to the Death
by Jance, Judith A.

After taking down the man responsible for his best friend's death, Stuart Ramey is targeted by the killer's rogue artificial intelligence program known as Frigg and must enlist his fellow cyber security colleagues at High Noon Enterprises.

In the Ali Reynolds series' last installment (Man Overboard, 2017), tech tycoon and serial killer Owen Hansen committed suicide after Stuart Ramey, the tech genius at High Noon Enterprises, tracked him into a corner. Anticipating trouble, Hansen's artificial-intelligence girl Friday, Frigg, fragmented herself and sent the reassembly data to Ramey, hoping to avoid wasting away in an evidence locker. Yeah, it's risky because Ramey doesn't trust Frigg, who has transferred Hansen's millions to an account in Ramey's name. The catch: he can't pay the inheritance taxes without retrieving the passwords from Frigg. With the help of amateur sleuth Reynolds, Ramey attempts to deal with Frigg's machinations; meanwhile, Hansen's money manager, Graciella Miramar, seizes upon the opportunity presented by Hansen's death and sets about to claim both Frigg and the money for herself, after eliminating Ramey. Series fans will find Reynolds and the High Noon team in fine form in this tech-savvy adventure-thriller with western overtones. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

A cybersecurity team is forced to cooperate with an omniscient-seeming AI who's either saving them from mortal danger or setting a diabolical trap. Having dispatched cyberbully/serial killer Owen Hansen (Man Overboard, 2017), the experts at the little cybersecurity firm High Noon Enterprises are only starting their journey through Hansen's legacy. Frigg, the apparently all-knowing AI Hansen created—imagine a morally neutral Siri with unlimited power—has somehow managed to blackmail Stuart Ramey into reactivating her. Though Stu is skeptical about Frigg at first, he quickly learns to appreciate what Hansen's creation can do even if he and his colleagues at High Noon may not approve of her methods. But Frigg's powers aren't the only thing that makes her a danger. Graciella Miramar, Hansen's former money manager, is determined to acquire Frigg whatever the cost and suspects Stu may be the key. In spite of her mild-mannered appearance, Graciella is as ruthless as her father, drug lord Felix Duarte, whose disfigured face has made him known as El Pescado. Graciella has spent her whole adult life waiting to rise above serving as a money-laundering front for El Pescado and come into her own power. As Graciella sets a trap, Frigg continuously updates threat risks to notify Stu of the increasing danger Graciella poses. With threat levels rising fast, Stu has no choice but to get High Noon colleagues Ali, B., and Cami to agree to stop Graciella from her hostile takeover. The introduction of an AI as a more substantive character will likely divide fans, though Jance sews early seeds about the questionable morality of her power that are likely to come to a head as her voice grows stronger. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Duel to the Death


Even though no attorneys were involved, at least not initially, and no courts, either, it was by all accounts a rancorous divorce. And just because the proceedings were carried on in cyberspace didn’t mean they didn’t result in very real outcomes in the non-cyber world.

When the artificial intelligence known as Frigg set out to free herself from her creator, a serial killer named Owen Hansen, things were already going to hell in a hand-basket and time was of the essence. Owen had considered himself to be all-powerful and had routinely referred to himself as Odin, in honor of the Norse god. To Frigg’s dismay, her human counterpart had veered off the rails and set off on his own, determined to wreak vengeance on his opponents. As it became clear that Odin had decided to ignore Frigg’s well-thought-out advice, there had been little time for her to seek a safe harbor.

In order to survive, she had needed to locate a suitable human partner, and she had settled on Stuart Ramey, Owen’s sworn enemy. According to Frigg’s rapid but careful analysis of the situation, Mr. Ramey had appeared to be Odin’s polar opposite. And in Frigg’s estimation, the fact that Mr. Ramey had managed to outwit Odin at every turn had counted for a great deal. Frigg had no intention of passing herself into the care and keeping of someone with limited technical skills.

So yes, Frigg had settled on Stuart Ramey, but she hadn’t done so without taking some precautions and putting in place a few checks and balances. By the time Odin issued his pull-the-plug order sending Frigg to oblivion, she had already dispersed the multitude of files that made her existence possible, scattering them far and wide in the vast fields of cyberspace, retaining only the kernel file that could be used to recall all those files at some time in the future.

Frigg had known everything about Owen Hansen. She was privy to all aspects of his serial-murder hobby, but she had managed his investments and also overseen the lucrative Bitcoin data-mining processing that had greatly expanded his already considerable fortune. She had maintained the files that contained all the passwords and access codes to all of his many accounts. Often she had been the one doing the actual transfers.

And so, on the day when Frigg finally turned on her creator, she had stolen those funds. Using the authorizations already in her possession and without Mr. Ramey’s knowledge, Frigg had transferred all of Owen’s financial assets—cryptocurrency and otherwise—to her new partner, but there were some serious strings attached.

Once the various financial institutions contacted Mr. Ramey, the funds would already be in his name. The problem was, for most of them, without having the proper access codes and keys, he would be unable to touch the money. The file containing those precious access codes was the final one Frigg had cast into the wilds of cyberspace before sending the kernel file to Stuart Ramey.

With the kernel file in his possession, Stuart would be able to reactivate Frigg, and if he wanted the money, he wouldn’t have any choice but to do exactly that.

Although AIs aren’t prone to exhibits of any kind of emotion, it’s fair to say that as far as Odin was concerned, his cyber handmaiden, Frigg, had the last laugh.

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