Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tyler Locke & his Leatherman tool are back!

The Vault
by Boyd Morrison

Yes, Tyler Locke, the protagonist of The Ark, is back, as are his sidekick Grant Westfield, the General, and several other characters from Boyd Morrison’s debut novel. One notable exception is Dilara Kenner, who is not featured in this latest adventure. Obviously, this is the second book in a continuing series. In general, I’m a big proponent of reading series books in order, but in this case I don’t think it matters if you’ve read the first. The events of The Ark are barely referenced, even in passing, so you won’t be missing a thing.

Like so many action heroes, trouble seems to find Tyler Locke. This time it takes the form of an insistently ringing telephone. Tyler is minding his own business on a ferry commute when an unknown caller tells him he has 28 minutes to defuse a bomb on the boat. Having no other option, Tyler investigates. He is indeed led to a bomb, a blonde, and a puzzle. What he doesn’t know is that this set-up is only the first test. The mystery caller is Jordan Orr, a career criminal with an insane-sounding quest. The blonde is Stacy Benedict, another innocent bystander, like Tyler, with a unique skill set. And Orr has acquired exactly the leverage to make both Tyler and Stacy do his bidding. For what he wants is nothing less than the Midas Touch.

Let’s stop right there. Yes, that Midas Touch, where everything you touch turns to gold. As I read this fairly early on in the novel, I was skeptical. Actually, I don’t think skeptical covers it; I was bordering on contemptuous. It was the most ridiculous premise I could imagine for a quest thriller. But I am a big Morrison fan, so I suspended my disbelief and continued reading. (Incidentally, one of the things I like best about Tyler Locke is that he articulates all the things I’m thinking—but more knowledgeably. He doesn’t just say that alchemy is a fantasy; he explains why nuclear fission isn’t a practical means to turn lead into gold.)

Ultimately, I was rewarded for giving the author the latitude to ply his craft. He never let me down on the entertainment—though there were some scenes that felt a bit contrived to me. And while I’m not going to claim that this is the most plausible plot, Morrison pulls it off. He makes it believable enough (and I’m not a pushover when it comes to that). There was a science-based plot twist at one point that made me literally stand up and cheer out loud. It was so awesome!

As far as character development goes, I’d say it’s about status quo with the first book. Don’t pick this book up if you are looking for an intimate character portrait. Pick it up if you want a rockin’ car chase on the Autobahn. Pick it up if you enjoy a good heist. Pick it up if you’re curious how science can explain the legend of Midas. And pick The Vault up if you’re looking for a book that’s hard to put down.

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