Virtual identity kidnapped by terrorists
Cel (Cell) has won Charles den Tex the Gouden Strop Award 2008 yet again for best thriller. He deserves the prize more than ever for this sophisticated and topical novel about identity fraud on the internet combined with the threat of terror. Communications advisor Michael Bellicher, has witnessed an accident, is held by the police on suspicion of involvement in a separate, fatal hit-and-run. But he has never heard of the village where the incident took place, never mind ever having been there. Nor does he own the car involved, despite its being registered in his name.
Nevertheless, these cannot be administrative errors; Michael is also being held responsible for a ram-raid at a jeweller’s. And apparently he bought a house with dilapidated glasshouses worth € 3 million. All the facts point to him – except that Michael has had nothing to do with any of this. Someone else is using his identity. But who, and why? How has Bellicher’s identity been stolen? Bellicher becomes disoriented, he begins to lose his grip of things.
He begins his own investigation, along with Richard, the witness and bodyguard assigned to him by his business partner. He is involved in spectacular chases, first in a car through the greenhouses of the Westland, the heart of Dutch horticulture, then in the virtual world of Second Life, where he is ultimately successful in cornering his online attacker. Little by little, it becomes evident that identity fraud is more than common theft, it concerns extensive trading in personal data in which a cell of Dutch intelligence is playing a dubious role as it fights the ‘war on terror’.
With Cel, Den Tex has produced another riveting book. It is an adroit portrait of a man required to regain his identity at the interface of reality and the virtual world as they flow effortlessly into one another. He sketches all too clearly how the traces we leave on the internet can be retrieved and manipulated to form a real risk to every citizen. When combined with the alleged terrorist threat, this generates a frightening picture of a society in which the individual is no more than a handful of data in a database – no more than a number.