If you haven't already blown your summer reading budget, consider the latest in Boyd Morrison's Tyler Locke series, The Vault. Introduced in the bestselling The Ark, Locke is a former combat engineer who pulled off a daring rescue and a history-making discovery.
In this latest thriller, Locke teams up with classics expert Stacy Benedict to avert a disaster on a Washington State ferry masterminded by a criminal who has their family members captive. But that is just an audition--once they prove they can work together, they are thrown into a search for the chamber holding the ability to turn any material into gold--the Midas Touch. On top of that, a secret message in a "proof of life" video tells Locke that the mastermind has the components for a dirty bomb. Money is not the only object, and Locke must do the impossible to save not only his father and Stacy's sister, but an entire city.
Morrison excels at creating crisp, clear prose with drive. Each scene pushes inexorably to the next, as the characters race against time in Italy, Germany, Greece, and New York with each new challenge. Just as the geolabe (an on-the-ground astrolabe) they use for clues clicks precisely into place, so does the structure of this thriller, with chapter cliff-hangers and a big-boss battle at the end.
It's this precision that makes me think wistfully of my favorite work of Morrison's, Rogue Wave, in which a family must stay alive during a devastating tsunami. I liked the chaos of that story and the sense that no one was ever in control of the situation, but rather just doing the best they can. While Locke and Benedict are similarly fighting for their lives, they have precisely the skills needed to solve their problems. They call on equally skilled partners for back-up, and they have the unlimited resources of the corporation Locke works for. Of course Locke can drive a supercar at ridiculous speed on the German autobahn. It's something he can do.
There's no accounting for taste, however, and if I prefer my scenarios messy and my mystery-solvers to be alcoholics with borderline personality disorders, then that's on me. The thing to realize is that with The Vault, Morrison provides an excellent exemplar of what a thriller is supposed to be. It's a rollercoaster ride. One of the reasons Morrison's work stands out is that the science would get at least a "Plausible" from the Mythbusters. He doesn't change the laws of physics. If a bomb detonator has no way of being shut off, the bomb goes off--there's no eleventh hour chicanery. Morrison is uniquely creative in imagining how to deal with those types of situations without writerly shortcuts.
The Vault is a fast-paced combination of ancient lore, globe hopping chases, and modern technology, all wrapped in a package of wit and imagination. Take it with you to the beach, on the airplane, or to your summer cabin.
Maybe not a Washington State Ferry. It'll make you wonder what's really going on down on the car deck.
Coming July 5. Simon and Schuster.