A Cursed Place
Date Published05 January 2023
Price£ 9.99

A Cursed Place

by Peter Hanington

Journalist William Carver notes surprising correspondences between actions by repressive governments and big corporations the world over.


This latest thriller by Peter Hanington will confirm conspiracy theorists’ worst fears, positing as it does the exploitation of technology for the benefit of governments and companies to crush dissent. The conspiracy extends across the world, and agents are active on the front lines, ready and willing to do whatever is necessary, up to and including murder.

The book starts in Brochu, Chile, a mining town where terrible conditions and low pay take their toll. An American identified as Jags has a task of closing off any early resistance to the shameful exploitation of the miners by the ultimate operator, American tech company Public Square. Jags shows signs of developing a conscience at some point, but his bosses are not easily fooled.

Public Square, based in Cupertino, California, is at the forefront of social media platforms and full of the usual futuristic hyperbole generated by leading companies in the field. In charge are Elizabeth and Fred Curepipe, masters of intrusive technologies that allow them to spy on anyone not wholly supportive to their ideas. Fred appears to have access to some particularly shocking capabilities, while Elizabeth provides an appealing face to the media.

Meanwhile, BBC journalist Patrick is in Hong Kong, covering the pro-democracy protests on Harcourt Road. Patrick makes contact with Eric Fung, one of the student leaders, who has his suspicions about police investigations. When one of his colleagues turns up dead, Eric and Patrick find that the media is immediately inundated with fake news which obscures the real reason for his demise.

Patrick also has his suspicions about an alleged US journalist who is asking all the wrong questions. Patrick contacts his old mentor William Carver, a journalist taking a break from the profession in which he gained his reputation. William joins Patrick in Hong Kong; he is good at making connections, and makes some surprising discoveries.

Hanington’s characters ring true, particularly the journalists who share what has been Hanington’s profession for 25 years. The discovery that certain governments and corporations employ underhand methods to gain advantage is not new, although the extent of their transgressions here is alarming. What comes across as truly shocking is the extent to which the same playbook is being employed across the globe, available to any outfit able to raise the money to buy in.

The author finds notes of humour even as he builds up tension; but successive revelations each more ghastly than the last make it difficult to view with anything but horror the prospect of a future suggested here. The fact that it appears so plausible only adds to the trepidation about future possibilities.

Reviewed 29 April 2023 by Chris Roberts