‘The Dead Key’ was a winner in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel contest so it has to be good right? Well, no. The same people that select Kindle First books must have been in charge of this selection as well—because there’s absolutely nothing breakthrough about it.
The story is about a young woman, supposedly some kind of engineer who should know how things work, assigned to draw up blueprints for an abandoned bank building in Cleveland and the ‘mystery’ she uncovers. Told through flashbacks and extravagantly flowery prose, it might have been interesting—if it were remotely possible. The problem is the plot falls apart because it couldn’t happen the way it’s described so that kind of takes the steam out of the story.
You see back when the bank was active some unscrupulous bank executives were pilfering safe deposit boxes using something called a ‘dead key’. Only trouble is: there is no such thing—as anyone who ever actually went inside a bank knows. Safe deposit boxes require two keys to open. The customer / renter gets one and the bank keeps the other. Neither can open the box without both keys used at the same time. If the customer loses their key or dies the box must be drilled open. That’s it. Simple logic will tell you that no one would ever rent a safe deposit box knowing the bank could open it whenever they wish. The entire plot is bogus. Not only that but the safe deposit boxes are inside their own vault with twelve inch thick steel doors which they close and lock after hours! The interior of the bank even in the 70’s has motion detectors and cameras. No one can go roaming around a bank in the middle of the night looking through safe deposit boxes. It would appear the author knows nothing about her subject and never set foot inside of a bank, she probably only uses the ATM.
To make matters worse the flashbacks to when the bank was open are supposed to be in the 70’s but sound like the 40’s or 50’s and are totally wrong. The characters are uniformly stupid. The ‘heroine’ has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. She is described as a slut who sleeps with her boss, drinks too much, is always late, and consequently never bathes because she can’t rouse herself out of her drunken stupors. Alright, that is a little sexist but she could have been such a role model—a female engineer solving a complex technical mystery. What a waste of a book and a waste of time.