"Jump into the action packed life of a woman on the run."
Reviewed by Lynn Cunningham
Posted July 17, 2016
Susan McQueen has been known by many names. This one is
her most recent. Swift changes of names is vital to
who is a fugitive and on the run. A fugitive is exactly
Susan has been for the last 16 years. She has lived in
places, always careful not to let people get to know her
well. That does not mean that she has not had friends
because she has, but those friends only know her as the
person she is at that point in time.
Real name, Tina Adler, is a computer hacker of the highest
order as her father once was before getting caught and
to prison. She had helped him 16 years ago to pull off an
online heist to the tune of ten million dollars and has
running ever since. Although she took a very long break
computers once she went on the run, Tina has been at it
again after making it across the Canadian border without
She is also a rather impressive artist, which is how she
been making a living since being on the run. There is only
one person who knows her real identity and she has never
him in person. They only keep in touch through a special
hacker chat room online. One day as she is checking for
their special coded message to each other, she realizes
someone is "shadowing" her. In other words, her laptop has
been hacked. This person also seems to know who Tina
is and wants a staggering amount of money for keeping
Not only that, but the shadow has promised to kill two
people who mean everything to her.
It looks like Tina is going on the run again. This time
is being chased by both her dangerous shadow as well as
FBI, both of who keep getting closer all the time. She
outfox both at the same time, but will she be able to meet
the shadow's deadline in time to save the lives of her
friends as well as herself?
SHADOWED is the perfect book for those readers who love
spine tingling, on the edge of your seat action. Tina
is somewhat of an anti-heroine in that she has done
something wrong and illegal in her past. However, there
reasons for what she did and she has been paying for it
since by not being allowed to have normal life. You will
dislike her, though. In fact, you will cheer her on as she
does what she needs to do in order to survive.
It was only when I had finished SHADOWED that I learned it
was a part of a series. That being said, this is easily a
standalone book but now I really want to read the others
this series. SHADOWED could become a weekly television
medium as all of the elements and characters are perfectly
set up for it.
Karen E. Olson has crafted a very compelling and exciting
plot that you will want to dive right into the middle of
feel a bit lost when the experience ends. From the
action to the final page, SHADOWED has it all! You become
Ms. Olson's newest fan.
Learn more about Shadowed
Computer hacker ‘Nicole Jones’ finds herself on the run from
an unknown enemy in this tense and twisting novel of
identity and suspense
The computer hacker formerly known as Nicole Jones is now
living as Susan McQueen on a remote island in Quebec,
Canada. She is living a quiet life, working as an artist –
but she has not given up her computer. While in an online
chatroom, she sees a shadow – someone is inside her laptop,
watching her every move, and somehow knows exactly who she is.
Afraid that he will track her down, Susan is on the run
again – but from whom? Is it the FBI or someone associated
with her past crime sixteen years before? Making her way
across the border and back to the USA, some unsettling
discoveries make Susan realize that she won’t be able to
escape her past a second time.
He is looking for me.
I’m not afraid, but I’m uneasy. The messages are cryptic –
half in French, half in English – asking to meet, making it
sound almost like a date.
He doesn’t know where I am, doesn’t know that I’m online and
have seen him there. I’m shrouded by several different
identities, by a VPN that keeps my IP address at bay. These
are not foolproof, though. Not when it comes to him. If he
suspects I’m lurking, if he put some effort into it, he
likely could find me.
I could stop going to the site and end it now. Yet every day
I scan the conversations, looking for his name, looking for
that day’s message.
I am doing just that, along with my morning ritual of a cup
of coffee and slice of toast, when I spot it, the phrase
we’d devised to identify ourselves to each other.
‘Le soleil brille aujourd’hui,’ I read. The sun is
shining today. The French is more familiar now that I’m
using it every day, even if it’s Québécois and not Parisian.
After that, the link to the URL where we could chat privately.
I wonder for a moment where he is, if the sun really is
shining where he is. Here, I see nothing but gray, hear the
tap-tap-tap of the rain against the window.
I take a drink of coffee, a bite of toast.
He knows who I am. I’d like to say he’s a friend; he’s
helped me in the past. I have trusted him more than I’ve
ever trusted anyone.
I know him only as Tracker.
I am curious, more than I should be. My fingers itch to respond.
Instead, I pick up my coffee mug and plate and get up from
the table. The house has an open layout – a dining area
between the living room and kitchen – and it only takes me a
few strides before I stick my plate in the sink. I turn and
lean against the counter, cupping the coffee mug in my hands.
The wood stove sits cold in the corner across the room,
unnecessary now that summer has finally arrived, but very
necessary in the dead of winter when the unyielding snow and
frigid temperatures wrap themselves around the house.
When I first looked at the house a little over a year ago, I
wondered if it wasn’t just a little too brown. Wood
paneling, a wooden built-in cabinet on the wall that backs
up against the staircase that leads to the bedrooms and
bathroom upstairs. A beige sofa and a wooden rocking chair.
Wide hardwood flooring and a wood table and chairs. But the
longer I live here, the cozier it feels, and now I wouldn’t
change a thing. I’ve added dashes of color: a locally
hand-woven red and gold rug, red and orange ceramic mugs and
bowls on the cabinet shelves. And then there are my
paintings, which splash the reds and oranges and pinks of
the island’s sunsets and sunrises across the walls.
I am comfortable here, settled, on Ile-aux-Coudres. The
island is small – smaller than Block Island, my previous
home – in the middle of the St Lawrence River in Quebec’s
Charlevoix region, and has two roads: one that circles the
island for sixteen miles and one that cuts through it. The
mainland is close, two miles, merely a fifteenminute ferry ride.
I’ve gleaned some trivia tidbits about the island: how it
was discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1535, who named it
after the hazelnut trees, and how seamen would stop here to
bury people who’d died during voyages. Coastal shipping was
a big business at one time, but that gave way to trucking,
and now the economy relies on tourism and the island’s
reputation as a summer resort.
I remind myself that I’m not doing bike tours here, like I
did when I lived on Block Island off the coast of Rhode
Island, so I don’t need to know these small facts, but those
years seem to have piqued a curiosity in me that I never
knew I had.
I do spend a lot of time on my bike, discovering the
island’s gems. I frequently visit the two small,
processional chapels perched at the side of the road:
Saint-Pierre and Saint-Isidore. Their stark interiors are
smaller than my kitchen, but there is a peacefulness that I
find soothing. I am not a religious person, but I have
discovered a spirituality here.
I’ve learned how to make my own bread, using the flour
that’s milled at Les Moulins down the road. Kneading the
dough is therapeutic, back and forth until it’s smooth as
stone. As smooth as the stones that Odette uses at the spa
at La Roche Pleureuse. I am addicted to them, to the quiet
peace that envelops me while she works her magic. Sometimes
when she’s done I have to remind myself who I am, because I
am too relaxed and I worry that I won’t answer to the name
I’ve been Tina Adler and Amelie Renaud and Nicole Jones and
now I’m Susan McQueen.
I have painted the chapels and Saint Louis Church and the
windmill, filling my canvases with the broad brushstrokes
that distinguish my style from other artists here, and the
galleries that sell my work find that they are popular among
One other thing that is curious: I am not afraid to go to
the mainland here, as I was before. It is almost as though
stepping off that other island set me free, but I know
better than that. Yet I revel in my new life, eager to
discover this new place, taking my bike across the river and
pedaling as far away as Tadoussac, fourhundred-some-odd
years old, where the freshwater Saguenay spills into the
saltwater St Lawrence. I’ve seen beluga and minke whales in
the waters there. The Charlevoix region is more like Europe
than North America, with tidy houses that sport a bounty of
colorful flowers and mountains that rush to the edges of the
St Lawrence, with steeples piercing the cobalt sky in small,
picturesque villages along the coast.
I have escaped twice now to find refuge in a place that is
even more remote than the last one, and I am thankful for my
own resourcefulness and the kindness of others. Luck might
have more to do with it than any so-called higher power, but
regardless of how I got here, I am safely enshrined. Or so I
I might have remade myself yet again, but this time I have
kept bits of myself from before: the biking, the painting.
And the laptop.
The laptop is a transgression. It is my weakness. I start
out with rules: in the morning for only an hour, again in
the evening after supper. I set the timer so I can adhere to
this, but as they say, rules are made to be broken and there
are many days when I lose track of time and hours pass.
It was harder to control my addiction in the winter, the
deep snow and chill keeping me indoors, where it’s cozy and
warm. But once the weather turned, the island lured me
outdoors, and I’ve been able to keep it under control. At
least a little bit.
I turn back to the sink and when I finish washing up, glance
back toward the laptop on the coffee table. Sometimes it
whispers to me, but right now it’s shouting.
I pour myself a second cup of coffee and allow myself to be
lured back. I touch the keypad and the screen jumps to life.
Tracker’s message is still there, waiting for me.
When I saw his name and the cryptic French phrase last week,
my first thought was to wonder what had taken him so long.
My second was, why now? It’s been over a year.
The only logical explanation is that something has happened
that he means to warn me about. Tracker would not try to
reach me merely for the sake of catching up. Our
relationship has always been a practical one.
I have been waffling because I don’t know if I want to know.
But the longer it goes on, the more anxious I get, the more
I feel I should find out what’s going on so I’m not caught
off guard again.
My fingers hover over the keys, and I close my eyes and
quickly click on the URL link he’s left for me.
My hands are shaking so much that I can barely type.
‘Non, le ciel est nuageux.’ No, it’s cloudy.
This is the code that will tell him it’s really me and not
I can’t tell if he’s here. He is a ghost, and even if I
start poking around to try to uncover him, I doubt I will be
able to. Tracker is very good at hiding.
No, all I can do is wait to see if he’ll come to the chat.
My heart begins to pound, anxious now that I have not
covered my tracks sufficiently, that he is, right at this
moment, tracing me to this very spot. I double-check my VPN,
make sure that it’s working properly. I have given myself
away in only one way: my screen name, which is no longer
Tiny or BikerGirl27, but a jumble of letters and numbers
that are meaningless to anyone but me. It’s one of five that
I’ve been using for this site as I lurk among the
conversations, picking up new tips and getting to know the
other hackers here.
I see it without realizing it at first: a blip on the screen
that could be a hiccup in the wireless Internet, nothing
that’s unusual out here.
But I know it’s not that innocent.
The button next to the webcam shines a bright green.
I’m being shadowed.
Instinctively, I put my hand over the webcam and think for a
second. Even if I shut the laptop down right now, it doesn’t
matter. Whoever it is has already seen enough.
I was stupid to click on the link without a second thought.
But it was Tracker. Wasn’t it?
I click to disconnect the VPN. It doesn’t disconnect. I try
to shut down the Internet, but that doesn’t work, either.
Whoever is there has taken control of my laptop with a
remote access Trojan – or RAT. He’s a rat, all right.
As if reading my mind, a small box appears on the screen,
with a message: ‘Your computer has been hijacked. All of
your files have been encrypted, and in order to get them
back, you must follow our instructions and make this deposit
as soon as possible.’ Below that, there is the figure of one
million bitcoins and an account number.
Incredulous, I laugh out loud, the sound echoing in the
small room, bouncing off the wood paneling. I can barely
believe the irony. I’ve been hacking since I was fourteen;
when I was twenty-five, I stole ten million dollars from
bank accounts and because of that, the FBI has been looking
for me. I had a close call with them last year, but managed
to escape. I ended up here, one of the most isolated places
I’ve ever been.
And now a hacker has hacked me. Me.
After this initial reaction, the embarrassment sets in. How
could I have been so stupid? I clicked on that link like an
amateur; I let my guard down because I thought I was going
to talk to Tracker. He would be the first one to chastise me
for being careless.
And then there’s the worry. Who is it, exactly? Is it
Tracker? I really don’t want to think so. Maybe it’s some
hacker, like me – or is it the FBI?
The RAT must have been embedded in the URL that Tracker sent
me. Is it possible that Tracker was hacked first? That idea
is unfathomable, since Tracker is the best I’ve ever known.
But maybe he’s not perfect, either. Maybe he was like me and
let his guard down for a second, long enough to let this
It’s quite possible that this hacker is inserting RATs into
URLs all over the chat rooms, just to see whom he can hack,
who would be willing to give into his ransom demand. The
only way to get any answers is to go to the chat room, see
if there’s any chatter about someone hacking into accounts.
It’s a chat room for hackers; it seems like fertile ground
for any of us, even though I’d like to think we have a code.
A code that says: don’t hack your fellow hackers.
Which again makes me wonder if it’s not the FBI. It’s
possible – and more than likely – that they are randomly
hacking into hackers’ accounts to try to catch any of us at
something nefarious. But would the FBI ask for a ransom? And
in bitcoins? The virtual currency is more for criminals. The
FBI probably would not have made such a demand. They would
I am in denial that it could be Tracker. It doesn’t seem in
character. But I am suspicious of everyone and everything;
that’s what being a fugitive for sixteen years will do.
I realize that I’ve taken my hand away from the webcam,
Without waiting for another message from the hacker, I
finally manage to disconnect the Internet. I need to find
the port that the shadow has opened and shut it down. I
can’t go into safe mode, because then the RAT could load
into the memory, and I’ll never get rid of it. I make sure
that every program that can connect to the Internet – email,
messages – is closed.
I should be on autopilot. I should be scanning the ports,
seeing what’s open, looking for anything unexpected. I need
to search the source code to make sure my shadow hasn’t
inserted a back door, somewhere he can get inside even if I
think I’ve gotten rid of him. Instead, I stare at the laptop
as it sits on the table and another emotion overcomes me. I
feel betrayed. Ridiculous, really, but nevertheless, that’s
how I feel.
A sudden, awful, sinister thought startles me. I could do
the same thing as this hacker. I could hack into computers
and hold files for ransom, too. It wouldn’t be that
difficult. Not with my skills.
RATs are easy enough to get; I’ve seen the other hackers
talking about it in the chat rooms. Forty dollars and anyone
can buy the code, insert it into a URL, and email it to
unsuspecting victims who click on it only to find themselves
with a locked computer and a shadow who is able to access
all their passwords and usernames and information.
What am I thinking? I get up and walk over to the front
window. The rain has stopped, and the clouds are beginning
to clear. A small sliver of sunlight pierces the sky and
illuminates the river below.
I begin to wonder how hard it would be to hack the hacker.
Granted, whoever it is will see me if I log back into the
laptop, but would I be able to shroud myself in some way in
order to trap him, to turn the tables on him? I’d have to
keep that port open for him, give him a false sense of
security. And then if I got another computer, one that is
not compromised, I could go into the chat room and poke
around a little. Everyone there is leaving a footprint. I
could follow those prints and see if they end up in my laptop.
I am always up for a challenge, and this one intrigues me.
But I need to think it through, and the best place is on my
bike. The laptop is no longer connected to the Internet, so
I can leave it alone for now. I go upstairs and change into
a pair of leggings and slip on a T-shirt with a fleece over
it. Even though it’s July, it’s been raining and is cool
outside. Welcome to Canada. I pull on my sneakers and make
my way back downstairs. I grab my daypack and helmet as I
My bike is leaning against the side of the house. There is
no need to lock anything up here. I climb on the bike, and
soon I am flying down the road, my legs pumping the pedals,
my head reeling with thoughts about my shadow and the ransom
demand. A million bitcoins seems excessive. Does he really
think that someone he hacks has that kind of cash? I
couldn’t access that much money, either in real or virtual
currency. To get bitcoins, you need to have an actual bank
account, and I don’t have one of those, so even if I wanted
to play along, I can’t.
The road curves; I can smell fresh bread in the air. I am
distracted by the delicious scent, but just for a moment.
I am curious about my shadow. Is he an amateur, a script
kiddie, who is using the RAT designed by someone else? Or is
he a black hat and did he code the virus himself? I have no
way of knowing.
Even though I was careless and clicked on that link, I have
no bank account numbers to compromise, no credit card
numbers to steal. There is something, however, that I do
want to protect. While I use a VPN, someone inside my laptop
will see that I have been hiding behind it and he will see
what I’ve been trying to keep secret: my IP address.
He will be able to find out where I am – or at least the
general vicinity. While the island is remote, it is still
accessible. There’s no way he can know who I am, though.
I’ve seen postings online about ransom requests like the one
I received and news stories about hackers taking pictures
through webcams and then demanding payment or the pictures
go public. The moment he got into my laptop, he must have
realized I have nothing to steal, no files to encrypt and
hold hostage. If he saw me through my webcam for that
moment, he would have seen a nondescript middle-aged woman.
If he is so inclined to track me down despite that, he can
ask anyone here about me and they will tell him my name is
Susan McQueen and that I am an artist, an American expat who
decided to leave the States for a more peaceful life.
No one knows that I came through Vermont on foot with a
backpack and a laptop. I am living here as I lived on Block
Island, under the radar, selling my paintings and paying my
bills with cash. While I became complacent there, being able
to hide for so long, I am not as relaxed here. It’s only
been a little over a year. I am constantly looking over my
shoulder. I was found once, I could be found again. This
time it might be as easy as through my own laptop.
Again I am distracted. The bread oven is perched on the edge
of the parking lot, its aroma stronger now that I’m here. My
stomach growls, despite my breakfast. It is hard to resist
the scent of freshly baked bread. There are no cars here
this morning; the rain and gray skies probably have kept the
tourists away. I turn into the lot and climb off the bike,
leaning it against the wooden post fence. I take the steps
two at a time and enter the shop.
Danielle is behind the counter, and she greets me in French.
I ask for a loaf of bread, and she slips one into a paper
bag and hands it to me. I take a couple of bills from the
small daypack and put the bread inside. It fits perfectly.
I hear the gristmill working hard, and the sun is starting
to move out from behind the clouds. The day may be salvaged
I bid Danielle adieu and head back out.
I pass a surrey with a family of four pedaling hard under
the bright yellow canopy. The little boy is laughing, and
it’s nice to see that the weather has not deterred everyone.
The road runs alongside the coast, and the water is choppy,
a deep, dark eggplant color that would be easy to capture on
But thoughts of my shadow and what I can do about him push
everything else aside. I decide to circle the island, work
my legs until I can feel the muscles burn to take the edge
off my anger.
By the time I arrive home, I know what I want to do.
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