Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mystery Book Review: The Keys to the Vault by Jim Colombo

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Keys to the Vault by Jim Colombo. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Keys to the Vault by Jim Colombo

A Caroline Baker Mystery

Strategic Book Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-60693-768-5 (1606937685)
ISBN-13: 978-1-60693-768-6 (9781606937686)
Publication Date: January 2009
List Price: $25.50

Review: Jim Colombo introduces Chicago commodities trader Caroline Baker in The Keys to the Vault, a book that reads more like a fantasy/adventure tale than a novel of mystery/suspense.

Caroline is filling her sports car with gas when she is approached by a stranger, S. Bentley "Ben" Parker, who needs a lift into Chicago. Ordinarily, she tells him, she didn’t give rides to strangers, but her intuition tells her he's harmless, so yes, she will take him to Chicago. It turns out that he needs more than a ride, he needs her help in retrieving a sensitive file from his office concerning a woman named Claudia Seiffert who is a person of interest in some suspicious criminal activity. Caroline, always up for a bit of intrigue, agrees to get the file knowing that if Claudia became aware that Caroline had the file, she would be in grave danger. It takes Caroline just 35 minutes to locate Ben’s office, find the file, and return to her car, only to find Ben missing. She takes the file home and it reads like an international spy thriller. But that's only the beginning. She soon finds herself in London and Paris, in the midst of a love affair which endangers her life, and trying to prevent the collapse of the worldwide banking system.

The real problem with The Keys to the Vault is that it is all just too unbelievable, even for what is arguably escapist entertainment. No rational woman would do what Caroline does, and even if the reader assumes Caroline temporarily takes leave of her senses for a chance at adventure, there's still the question of why. At one point she asks herself a most rhetorical question, "Am I crazy?" For the story to be even slightly credible, Caroline has to be grounded in some way, have a focal point upon which the plot can evolve. And that's missing.

To be fair, The Keys to the Vault is a quick and easy read, and for those willing to suspend reality for an hour or two, it can be fun. But more likely than not, readers will be rolling their eyes or shaking their head in disbelief at the antics of Caroline Baker.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Keys to the Vault and to Jim Colombo for providing a copy of the book for this review. See also an interview with Jim Colombo, who discusses his book, on

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): While playing hooky from her job as an independent soybean trader at the Chicago Board of Trade, Caroline is approached by a man looking for a lift into the city.

As they are driving to his downtown office, the stranger makes another request: he needs her help in retrieving a sensitive file from his office. Caroline agrees and easily collects the file, filling the rest of her day with bathing suit shopping, fending off attempted purse snatchings and giving a philandering boyfriend the boot.

It is only after this very long, very strange day that Caroline finally opens the mysterious file. Its contents will not only spring unlucky-in-love Caroline into the romance of a lifetime, it will plunge her headlong into an international adventure with the fate of the entire international banking system at stake!

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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