Beach book of the week
Anyone who hesitates before holding down Ctrl-Alt-Del together may lack the nerve for Deaver's paranoid nightmare, in which a game-playing psycho tries to delete as many people as possible in a week. Phate, as the killer calls himself, hacks his way into people's personal computers to find information he uses to lure them close enough to do another kind of hacking.
To track this Hannibal Tech-ter, police enlist master programmer Wyatt Gillette, temporarily sprung from prison. Both Wyatt and Phate can break into hospital and bank records, take down phone systems and even crack national security. Not that there is any security in the Blue Nowhere, Wyatt's term for the Internet ether, where nerds fly like Icarus to forbidden places (though the terrestrial setting is San Jose, Calif.). Deaver keeps the excitement streaming, slowed only by computer jargon (kludge, MUD) that occasionally makes for inelegant writing. Still, cross-cutting expertly between hacker and trackers, Deaver fills every keystroke with suspense. Simon & Schuster, $26)
Bottom Line: High-tension wired