Eliot Peper’s Uncommon Series

Eliot_PeperAbout the author:


B.A. – Global Studies, University of California- Santa Barbara

M.A. – International Affairs, University of California- San Diego

Website: http://www.eliotpeper.com/

Thriller Sub-genre: Conspiracy/Technothriller

Publisher: Self published

Future of the series: The series was written as a trilogy, so I am not expecting anymore additions to the series.

The Simon Review

When I started my job at Cornell University, I was given the opportunity to meet with a financial consultant to help me plan out my 403 (b), so I took advantage of the situation and set up an appointment.  The moment the consultant starting talking about annuities and mutual funds, my eyes glazed over and he might as well have been speaking in a foreign language. When I left, I was about as clueless coming out of that meeting as I was going in.  Being the scientist that I am, I’m more than thrilled to hear about the intricacies of quantum mechanics or the kinetic analysis of an enzyme, but mention stock options, dividends, and investment portfolio, I’m out the door.  So when indie author Eliot Peper approached me about reviewing his uncommon series which is a thriller about the ins-and-outs of a start-up company, my thought was that I would rather have a case of salmonella than to read a series that has ‘stock’ in the title.  However, I was intrigued when he mentioned that both Ramez Naam and William Hertling are his friends, and since both of them are computer geeks and I can relate to geeks, I decided to read the series.  I’m glad I did.

The series begins with two entrepreneurs and childhood friends, Mara Winkel and James Chen, collaborating together to start up a company which they named Moziak to sell Chen’s brainchild, a software that can detect anomalies in financial records of businesses.  Chen’s computer program can pinpoint inappropriate use of funds such as fraud and embezzlement.  Chen wanting to test his program in a real life situation decided to hack into the financial records of The Center for Mathematics and Society, a private think tank located on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus where both Chen and Winkel had been attending before dropping out and starting their company. It turns out that the think tank is a front for something more sinister and the hack results in a whole lot of trouble for Winkel, Chen, and their new company, Moziak. From there on the drama goes into high gear.

Most of the series primarily focuses on Mara Winkel who is the business wizard behind Moziak.  Winkel is incredibly tenacious and once she sets her mind on doing something, there is nothing that can stop her.  At first I wasn’t sure if I liked Winkel because her drive to succeed made her seem extremely cold especially when her ex-boyfriend’s father told her that his son was murdered.  I found Winkel’s response very inappropriate and it took me awhile for her to redeem herself, but eventually she won me over.  I have to applaud Peper for making Winkel black, as it is rare to find a black female character in the role of a business entrepreneur which more often than not would be portrayed by a white male.

Peper does a fantastic job in making the business aspect of the series easy to understand even for business idiots like me and at the same time take the reader on a thrilling ride.  Even though Moziak is a tech company and software is its product, there really isn’t much tech jargon to wade through.  Though the series may relate more to those that work in a business or company setting, even non-business people like myself will find the uncommon series a fun diversion.

The series is written as a trilogy and ends with Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series- Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy– because of a really exciting ending

Least Favorite Novel in the Series- Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0– because I didn’t really like Mara Winkel as much in this novel

What about the science? Peper’s other job is to advise entrepreneurs and investors in developing technology based businesses, so the uncommon series is a thriller version of his day job.  This means he is very familiar with both the technology as well as the business side of a start-up company.

The James Chen Technical Word in Review: Algorithm- We hear the term algorithm all the time and we usually associate it with computers but the term and the concept has been around for a long time.  Algorithms are usually associated with mathematics and computers but in reality everybody uses algorithms all the time.  An algorithm is simply a step by step process that results in a final outcome.  So if one were to follow a step-by-step recipe to bake cookies that would be an everyday example of using an algorithm.  When we were taught elementary arithmetic, we were taught in a step by step manner to solve the problem, otherwise an algorithm.  In computer science, programs are a series of algorithms written in one of a number of computer languages available, such as FORTRAN and C++.

The term algorithm originates from the Latin translation of a book written by Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Kwarizmi entitled Algoritmi de numero Indorum, which in English is Al-Kwarizmi on the Hindu Art of Reckoning.  One of Al-Kwarizmi achievements was developing the concept of arithmetic, so algoritmi combine with arithmetic resulted in the term algorithm.

James had been working a new project for over a year now.  Apparently it had started when he was hired as a course reader for one of the upper division math courses.  The professor asked him to grade the final assignments for all seventy students in the class.  The projects had been submitted online.  James started to read them but soon discovered that each took at least an hour to thoroughly review.  Mara couldn’t see James spending two weeks going through assignments and apparently James hadn’t been able to see himself doing it either.  Instead, he combined a series of algorithms into a computer program that could automatically flag problems in the student assignments, resulting in much less to review.– Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0

Books in the Series by Order:

Most Favorite in the series: Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy with a score of 4.47

Least Favorite in the series: Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 with a score of 4.01

Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)

Version_1#1-Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0- 2014

First Line:

Mara Winkel turned onto the muddy single track and lifted her body off the seat as her mountain bike plunged down the slope through the aspens.


Mara Winkel: The business genius behind Moziak

James Chen: The IT guru behind Moziak

Craig: Mara’s boyfriend

Quinn: Craig’s father and a policeman; eventually ends up working for Moziak

Jeremy Wasserman: Legal advisor for Moziak

David Grossman: Business advisor and friend to Mara and James

Dominic Giovanni: Representative for Maelstrom Venture Partners

Lars Moeller: Managing director for Maelstrom Venture Partners

Vernon: Banking advisor for Moziak

The Setting


Mara Winkel is rock climbing, mountain biking, and ‘studying’ her way through school at the University of Colorado, Boulder. But when her best friend James asks her to partner with him to start a disruptive new software company she discovers that the world of technology startups is fraught with intrigue, adrenaline, soaring successes, and scorching failures. It turns out this is especially true when your technology threatens entrenched drug cartels. Mara has to juggle mysterious investors, opaque partners, critical customers, and a team that is as brilliant as it is dysfunctional until only one question remains: win or die.

Looking for a review of Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0?  Check out:

Phil’s Observations

Gregg Borodaty

Brian’s Book Blog

Amazon Rating-US: 4.23 out of 5 stars based on 268 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.12 out of 5 stars based on 25 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 3.87 out of 5 stars based on 482 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.67 out of 5 stars based on 3 ratings

Total Score 4.01 (updated 8/16/18)


Power_Play#2-Uncommon Stock: Power Play- 2014

First Line:

Bass beats thrummed through Mara Winkel’s body like tremors through the San Andreas Fault.


Mara Winkel, James Chen, Craig, Quinn, Jeremy Wasserman, David Grossman, Dominic Giovanni, Lars Moeller and Vernon

Xavier: Special agent

Juliana Estevez: Head of Financial Intelligence at DVG

The Setting

Mainly Colorado

Mara Winkel is the CEO of Mozaik, the fastest-growing tech startup in Boulder, CO. But Mozaik doesn’t just build widgets; their software uncovers financial fraud. When Mozaik’s first major project reveals a dark secret at the heart of a large international bank, Mara and her team get sucked deeper into a conspiracy of dangerous money launderers, dysfunctional team members, and shady venture capitalists. Can they build a new business and survive intact? Their company and their lives are on the line.

He’s been orchestrating a power play for over two years now. And you were kind enough to help him succeed.

Looking for a review of Uncommon Stock: Power Play?  Check out:

Hello Newman!

Still Thinking…

Aanarav Sareen

Huffington Post

Brian’s Book Blog

Amazon Rating-US: 4.80 out of 5 stars based on 75 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 5.00 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.23 out of 5 stars based on 167 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars based on 2 rating

Total Score 4.42 (updated 8/16/18)




Exit_Strategy#3-Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy- 2015

Listed #442 out of 553 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List

Listed #120 out of 168 on Goodreads Best Science Thriller Book List

First Line:

“At last, the infamous Mara Winkel.”


Mara Winkel, James Chen, Craig, Quinn, Jeremy Wasserman, David Grossman, Dominic Giovanni, Lars Moeller, Juliana Estevez, Xavier and Vernon

The Setting

Mainly Colorado

Mara Winkel is America’s tech darling, CEO of the fastest-growing startup in the world. Her company, Mozaik, fights financial fraud with its revolutionary software and is hurtling towards a record-breaking IPO.

But just as Mara and her team prepare for the ultimate success, the dark forces that have haunted them since the beginning move in for the kill. Will they free themselves and achieve their dream or be forever consigned to the shackles of criminal conspiracy on a global scale?

The final book in The Uncommon Series is a frenetic page-turner packed with relentless ambition, shadowy intrigue, and deadly brilliance.

Looking for a review of Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy?  Check out:

Still Thinking…

Huffington Post

Brian’s Book Blog

Amazon Rating: 4.82 out of 5 stars based on 48 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.33 out of 5 stars based on 3 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.36 out of 5 stars based on 134 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 rating

Total Score 4.47  (updated 8/16/18)