In Toby Ball's debut novel, archivist Arthur Puskis, private eye Ethan Poole and investigative journalist Frank Frings begin to uncover a large-scale corruption ring known as the "The Navajo Project" in "The City" of the 1930s. Puskis, Poole and Frings start out as strangers, but as each races the clock with his own agenda in regards to the Navajo Project, their worlds collide in their separate attempts to stay alive.
Narrated by Michael Agostini for Iambik Audiobooks, the recording takes on a fittingly dark, Gotham-esque tone. The opening scenes of this dystopian novel describe the "Vaults" themselves. A place inhabited only by Puskis, the elevator operator and the cleaning crew. A court messenger arrives and leaves regularly as well, but for the most part Puskis ambles through the deserted basement level tomb alone. And Puskis doesn't venture out into the "real world" after hours either. He heads straight home with possibly a stop at the market. Agostini brings the isolation of this character to life in his personification.
However, the remainder of the characters mimic Puskis' tone in Agostini's narration and the audience never really feels like they leave the desolation of the Vaults. I attribute this partly to his reading and partly to the writing constructs of the novel, which are often stiff and awkward, more scholarly than aesthetic. When reading a print version of a book, this can sometimes be overlooked, but it is painfully evident in an audio recording.
The pacing is slower, so while the novel is classified as a "dystopian thriller" it is much more the dystopian than the thriller.
That being said, the plot is a unique concept constructed with strong twists. The characters showed great potential and I believe Ball will grow into a skilled character writer as he continues to hone his craft.
THE VAULTS is available from St. Martin's Press in hardcover (ISBN: 9780312580735) and from Iambic Audio (July 2011) as either an mp3 recording (ISBN: 9781926673554) or an m4b recording, running 9 hours and 5 minutes.