A thriller with a ligh touch

City of Liars (ISBN 1904959261, 275pp) is an engaging thriller set in London against a corporate backdrop of high-tech and finance. In a good-natured fashion, it exposes much of what the author experienced as founder and CEO of a software company: high-tech boardrooms, the Internet boom, City life and the high-pressure roller-coaster times of the technology craze.

The plot is centred on Travis Connors, a talented software designer, who lands a serious promotion when his state-of-the-art Internet banking system is bought by Europe’s biggest bank. When he befriends the company’s attractive but reticent auditor at the beer bash, everything is looking up. But, his good fortune quickly turns sour as his new role exposes him to accounting scandals, insider dealing and emotional deceit. When a vicious bug is discovered in his software Travis is sucked into a web of betrayal, violence and murder.

In the city of liars, you never know who to trust.

“Despite having studied the giants of literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, my written output has been lost in the trenches of corporate warfare. My published work to date, sadly, is limited to press releases and marketing collateral. Frustrated by the absence of a thriller set in the world of high-tech business, I decided to fill the void with ‘City of Liars’,” said Mr. Willcocks.

city of liars

Excerpt from City of Liars: Prologue

Travis stared down through the gaping hole he had smashed in the skylight of the office where he used to work. He shuddered at the absurdity of his plan.

He stood on the top of the converted warehouse, sweating and shaking. The cold night breeze pummelled against his eyes, partly obscuring his view over the Isle of Dogs. The twinkling monolith of Canary Wharf towered above him. The reflection of the silver-blue moon rippled in the hazy waters of the Thames. The rope burned against his lacerated palms. He harnessed it carefully around his wrist and yanked at it to ensure the grip was robust.

His eyes strained to discern the familiar shapes of his former working environment in the murky darkness below. Screensavers flickered on the computer monitors, sending indistinct waves of light out over the empty desks. A week ago, he had held his head high in that same space, poised on the brink of success. Now, he had to break in, complete his dangerous mission and survive.

It was preposterous, the abrupt shift in his fortunes. He had been beaten to a pulp, betrayed by his girlfriend, exposed to fraud, sacked from his job, framed for high-tech sabotage and accused of murder.

He wavered, exposed on the asphalted surface, contemplating his descent. A gust of wind from the east thumped into his patchwork of bruises. The slightest clumsy movement could jeopardise the whole plan, scupper his final, desperate attempt to salvage something of his career and his life.

The rope flapped and dislodged a tiny fragment of glass. It spiralled to the office floor, exploding into a scintilla of shards upon impact. He tensed up, ears straining. A horn bellowed slowly, deeply, burying the smash and clatter of the skylight’s glass. Another foot out of place might alert the security guard.

He craned his neck one last time, quivering at the prospect of descent, knowing that the rope was not nearly long enough. He clenched his fists, steeling himself to his task. His lungs ached as he breathed in the crisp, clean air. His battered ribs throbbed with pain.

Travis was burning on empty: it was time for the final throw of the dice.