Review of Cory Doctorow’s The Bezzle

Arindam Basu
3 min readMar 21, 2024
The Book Cover of The Bezzle, you can purchase this book here:

Gotta say I got bowled over reading The Bezzle by Cory Doctorow. The narrative is sequel to Read Team Blues by him (I did not read this book), but it weaves different themes in one narrative. Even as a standalone book, if you read it for the first time, it’s a reveal. Unmissable.

The story is set in the period of early 2000s to 2016-ish, beginning of the Trump era. At the centre of the story is a forensic accountant Martin Hench (a curious choice of name), and his friend Scott. Scott is a techpreneur who has sold his company to Yahoo! at that point and has accepted a position in Yahoo!

Matin and Scott travel to the idyllic island off LA in a private helicopter and scout the island. In the island they meet with Antonio, a hotel concierge and a driver. Antonio is an ambitious young man. Scott and Martin get high on the island, and they attend parties thrown by wealthy people who have villas in that island and here, both of them get to know a Slav hooker (who will come later in the story). By the by, Martin discovers from Antonio that there is an underground thriving business of selling brand name hamburgers in the island. Hamburgers and fast food were originally banned to be sold in the island but this clandestine business is run by someone named Lionel, who, as Martin figures out, runs it like a pyramid scheme. Lionel tries to recruit Martin as an accountant to his business, but Martin declines, and this sets up Lionel as his adversary. Martin identifies a “client zero” from the data he finds from Antonio, and persuades that person to withdraw funds from this pyramid scheme. This collapses the clandestine business, but meanwhile, Lionel, takes revenge on Scott by imprisoning him. Scott is arraigned by the deputies of the Sheriff is due partly to Scott’s fault of driving over 95 mph in a 35 mph zone, and is imprisoned for 25 years because of possessing cocaine in the car at doses over the legal limit that the cops determine had an intent of selling cocaine, which was a serious offence.

Martin is distraught at the news of his friend’s imprisonment, and tries to visit him often. Martin and Scott make a plan where Martin supplies Scott with books that has small amount of cocaine and this “perks” up Scott while he is imprisoned. Eventually, their visits are curtained and the prison is handed over to private party to save costs. The prison management establish measures that do not allow individual visits anymore and provides the inmates outdated electronic handheld devices and restrictive provisions to read ebooks. This part is classic, quintessential Cory Doctorow with portrayals of the perils of digital righted electronic media and the oppression. This part of the book was fascinating the gory details of copyright issues. Martin eventually decided to take up an assignment to help an artiste about his copyright denial by another client, and by the by, he has run-ins and he is roughed up by the cops and he is harassed for minor traffic offence. Not only that, he is also investigated for his alleged tax evasion, but he comes out unscathed. He learns that Lionel is behind these scams.

He eventually exacts revenge against Lionel.

The book traverses a landscape of corporate fraud, crime, the perils of private prisons, and the corruption in public life in America. Touches several themes that Cory has written over the years, including issues around copyright and issues with them. The narrative is tight, the pace is fast, and it will keep you on the edge for hours. I finished it in three nights of interrupted reading, but each night it gripped me. I finished the book with a sense of fear and trepidation, if not sadness as to where we are heading. At times I felt perhaps Cory could be less dark in the narrative, and could have ended the narrative strongly with serious punishment of the offenders rather than letting them somewhat getting away while the protagonists’ tale hung somewhat loose. But that is my impression as a reader finishing the book in one go. Perhaps a different reading at some other time will lead to a different conclusion.

Verdict: A definite must-read book if you care about the time you live in.



Arindam Basu

I am a Medical Doctor and an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury. Founder of TwinMe,