Title: The Vaults
Author: Toby Ball
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Vaults takes the reader back to the 1930’s, but an alternate history where The Vaults encompasses the entire history of The City. There is a file for every crime committed and every perpetrator, making The Vaults a complete repository of knowledge on crime. But when Arthur Puskis, the caretaker of The Vaults, finds a duplicate file about the same murderer, but with different information in each file, he is shocked. After all, The Vaults is supposed to be infallible - so, then, which of these files is incorrect and why was it put there? Puskis’ search for answers involves him in a larger plot with serious repercussions.
At first glance, it’s difficult to tell that The Vaults is in an alternate history. In fact, it’s conceivable that you could read it without really taking note of that fact. But it is a dystopian-style novel set in a history in which there is The City and there are The Vaults. To Arthur Puskis (and most in the city), The Vaults are infallible. The fact that he finds a duplicate file within its depths shakes him to his very core. He doesn’t know what to think, and begins doubting and questioning everything around him.
The Vaults is written in a noir-type mystery style, which is very appealing. Ball’s writing is so descriptive and evocative, I could picture what was going on in my head as an old black and white movie. The mystery within is pages is layered and deep, and it takes a lot of digging to uncover the truth behind it. There are a lot of disparate threads at the beginning of the novel, enough to confuse the reader a bit, but Ball seamlessly weaves them together, telling one large, overall story.
The characters within The Vaults are all very well written. It’s impressive, because they so easily could have been caricatures, but instead they are three-dimensional, vivid people. Arthur Puskis was my personal favorite, but I also appreciated Frings, the journalist who is determined to uncover the truth behind the corruption in the mayor’s office. There is just so much going on in this story, so many people, that it’s difficult to really talk about the specific things I liked because it is all so tied together.
The Vaults is a layered nuanced novel and is definitely an impressive debut for Toby Ball. Mystery fans should definitely consider picking this one up; it’s different than most of what you’ll read, but in this case, that’s a very good thing.