cover image The Vaults

The Vaults

Toby Ball, St. Martin's, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-58073-5

Set in an unnamed U.S. big city in 1935, Ball's impressive thriller debut opens with a vivid description of "the Vaults," where archivist Arthur Puskis has worked for almost three decades. He's the only person who understands the system of filing criminal cases in the vast underground storage facility in the subbasement of city hall. When Puskis, amid the drudgery of his lonely job, discovers two files with the same alphanumeric identifier but with different contents, the implications threaten the foundations of the massively corrupt municipal government headed by Mayor Red Henry. In particular, the find raises questions about why a number of convicted killers were never actually incarcerated. The archivist's dogged legwork coincides with a series of bombings aimed at close allies of the mayor, and the plot steamrolls to a dramatic conclusion. Ball's "City," in which despair and graft are almost palpable, is an imaginative achievement on a par with Loren Estleman's Gas City. (Sept.)