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Burn Rate

A mystery-thriller in cyberspace

Jon M. Garon, Burn Rate

The book is available here as a free read.

Jeff Devon, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who recently brought his company public and became a paper billionaire, is preparing for an appearance at the annual Consumer Electronics Show to give a keynote presentation. He never makes it, having been killed by a careful professional hitman.

The death rattles the executives at Menoetius Labs, Devon’s company. There is little evidence Devon was even murdered, but the sensitive nature of the company’s technologies draws the attention of the FBI and the Department of Defense Criminal Investigation Service (DCIS). Suddenly, everyone in the company is under investigation – for murder, espionage, and insider stock trading.

There are many possible motives for Devon’s death. Evidence pointed to international espionage and the theft of technologies for the creation of autonomous weapons of war – from drones able to target an individual to missile systems and vehicle systems that could wage war with the touch of a button. These threats were real, but they could also be a smokescreen for more mundane motives of theft, power, or personal jealousy.

Davy Epstein, Devon’s former Chief of Staff, is the youngest among the leadership team. He calls upon his father’s ex-girlfriend to help with the investigation. Emma Davis is a law professor, former dean, and sophisticated trouble-shooter with experience taking down corporate corruption. Being Epstein’s “nearly stepmother,” and recognizing the trouble ahead for Menoetius Labs, she agrees to help with the investigation.

To the murderer’s surprise, the combination of the federal investigators and the efforts of Professor Davis make much more progress than expected. As Davis and Epstein close in on the truth, the murderer is forced to strike again and silence the one senior executive who may hold the key to the investigation. Unlike Devon’s death, which was meticulously planned, the second murder is hasty and sloppy, killing a local sheriff and three other victims. False leads and threats by the murderer nearly land Davis and Epstein in federal prison, but the death suggests an international threat, and perhaps the start of a war. Davis and Epstein struggle to convince the FBI, DCIS, and DoD that the threat is real.

When armies start to mobilize, however, they know they need to find the murderer in order to end the threat and restore the peace.