When Vera de Sica leaves a credit card receipt for fifteen dollars worth of gas in a rental car, she has no idea what she's getting herself into. Even when the car is stolen, she isn't aware of the true extent of the damage.
Unfortunately, the car was stolen by a man who makes his living from various shady ventures - including identify theft.
When he passes Vera's identity onto his girlfriend, Charlene, she wastes no time in hacking into her accounts.
Charlene takes that single credit card receipt and uses it to check Vera's credit rating through a contact of hers who sells cars and needs to be able to check such things for his business. Through this, she finds out Vera's credit history and details of her bank accounts.
With Vera's mother's maiden name, Migone, which, unfortunately, is also Vera's middle name, Charlene is able to get a copy of Vera's birth certificate.
This allows her to apply for a driver's license in Vera's name. These two pieces of ID mean that Charlene can prove that she is Vera to anyone she wishes. Charlene is also able to hack into Vera's e-mail account, causing several problems with her work colleagues and her friends.
In a time when every other day seems to bring some new tale of identity theft or other damaging data link, User I.D. is frighteningly plausible.
Although Shute isn't lecturing, the methods and incidents she details are all accurate, and it's actually quite scary to realize how easy it would be to find yourself in this position.
Despite this root in the real world, the plot of the book doesn't suffer under the weight. Vera de Sica isn't a representation of the average person; she's a unique individual with problems of her own.
As Charlene hacks furthur into Vera's world, she finds herself imagining what this Professor de Sica is like. With just her credit card records to go on, she builds up an image of a bright, successful woman who has had far more luck in her life than Charlene could hope for. Ironically, it's more than Vera herself could hope for, either, and this case of dramatic irony lends a bittersweet taste to the novel.
The book is written in third person, and the narrative alternately follows Vera and Charlene, focusing on the two woman to such an extent that every other person is clearly a background figure to their story. The book doesn't suffer
by this method; rather, the narrative becomes stronger as a result.
The ending of the book remains plausible, but it's also an unlikely turn of events. Although it's possible that the situation could turn out that way, I'd wager that it doesn't happen very often. Still, the novel is modern and well-paced, and Shute's writing is a pleasure to read. It may leave you frantically shredding receipts, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment.