(very good; top 50% of SciThri)
Year published: 2011
Category: international thriller; ancient mythology thriller; science thriller; series (Tyler Locke #2)
Tech rating (out of 5):
Someone has kidnapped Tyler Locke’s father, but the ransom isn’t money (which Tyler, a self-made tech wizard, has plenty of). Instead of writing a check, Tyler is forced to help the kidnapper solve a two-thousand-year-old puzzle left behind by the ancient Greek engineering genius Archimedes. With the help of Stacy Benedict, an expert on archeology and ancient Greece whose sister has also been taken, Tyler has five days to find the most valuable treasure of all time: the “gold touch” of King Midas.
The Vault is a smart, contemporary thriller recently released by author Boyd Morrison, himself an engineer, Jeopardy! champion, and all-around smart guy. Morrison’s fascination with puzzles and clever mechanical devices shines through this story. The Vault has a great premise (linking Archimedes, King Midas, and a ruthless present-day treasure hunter), multiple villains, plenty of action, and un-put-downable pacing. Like many popular thrillers today, The Vault uses a popular myth as the basis for a treasure hunt using ancient artifacts and texts. The story flies through a variety of exotic European settings (all easily accessed using Locke’s private jet), where our heroes must defuse bombs, commit a heist, escape the mafia, translate dead languages, and more while racing a deadline and dodging a lot of bullets.
This isn’t a hard-core SciThri novel because the scientific content takes a back seat to the historical/archeologic detail, bur Morrison is enough of a geek to incorporate a fair amount of cool and largely accurate tech. I was particularly pleased with the way he handled the issue of the Midas Touch itself, stretching reality a little but keeping it believable. SciThri fans should enjoy Morrison’s respectful attitude toward science and technology even if the plot isn’t science-driven.
Some original stuff to look for in this novel: great use of sign language, a thrilling scene set in a robotic parking garage, a high speed car chase that’s one of the best, radioactive strontium, and clever engineering-based puzzles like I’ve never read before. The only thing I had a few doubts about was the economics; part of the plot relies on the price of gold but doesn’t fully account for the impact of unlimited supply on price (though a cartel controlled by the villain could solve this problem, I suppose).
FCC disclaimer: A free e-copy of this book was given to me by the publisher for review. As always, I made no guarantee that I would read the book or post a positive review.
This book should appeal to: fans of Steve Berry and Dan Brown
Key words: alchemy, antikythera mechanism, archaea, Archimedes, book review, boyd morrison, dirty bomb, Engineering puzzles, gold, Midas touch fiction, myths, Naples, review of vault, science thriller, scithri, Strontium, the ark, Tyler Locke