The Key by Kathryn Wise is a super-spy story that some may consider a “007” type novel. Unlike novels by Ian Fleming, this novel, and presumably others in the series, include a presence of creatures from another world. This is Book One in the series and I could not define what this “other world” was or its function in the story. This first novel is available in a boxed set of three novels. There is a Book Four which is available as a stand-alone novel. Because my impression of this novel was one of astonishment at how poorly it was written, I went immediately to the Amazon page to get an idea of what the follow-on novels might be about and to see what other reviews had to report. I believe I have only checked prior reviews first three times in several hundred reviews. I don’t want to be influenced by other reviews before writing mine. I rarely look at other reviews unless mine is so far out of alignment with others. Even then, if I look at other reviews, I do it after I read and post mine. This novel required a shift in my usual practice.
The Key, the first novel of a series, is a collection of unconnected plot elements. Rachel Vaughn is the only possibly interesting character and she ends up appearing as a character who might save the world if she can base a lot of her efforts out of a very high-class hotel room which she constantly returns to in order to change into high fashion clothes. She appreciates the quality of high fashion clothes and describes them to the reader in detail. She doesn’t really buy things because the latest styles keep appearing mysteriously in her room. Mysterious appearances, disappearances, and strange happenings for no reason are a feature of this novel. There may be connections established in future novels, there are four chances for this to happen in the series, but I don’t have the time to waste. Some novels I can judge, correctly or incorrectly, by their covers or their first few chapters. I can’t judge this one after reading the entire novel as anything other than a collection of plot elements on a storyboard.
There is no character development because there is no time. Events happen rapidly so this might be thought of as an action novel even though the actions are not connected and always uncompleted for some reason. Instead, one action is developed up to a point and then another action takes its place. For this novel, Book One, there is no end. The reader must proceed to Book Two. I would read Book Two if someone promised me an ending but the existence of Books Three and Four do not assure me that I would ever arrive at a conclusion.
I want to describe a few elements of Book One that confuse me. There is a Homeless Man. Rachel almost trips over him during one of her walks to a meeting. He gives her a meaningful glance and appears later peering at her through a window while giving her a “thumbs up” sign. For what? Why is this person in the story? Dennis the Menace (Rachel’s applied name) appears several times. The first few times he is a very persistent thief trying to steal her purse. He tries this several times and is thwarted by the skillful Rachel every time. Then he appears as a chauffeur of a top official in a company that Rachel has been assigned to join. He will appear later as a possible assassin, or maybe he just wants to get Rachel’s attention. All he wants is a key and he is convinced Rachel has it. The key is only one-half important. Together with its case, the unified object will be able to decrypt a universal code that will unlock every algorithm designed to assure cloud (as in internet, not meteorology) security.
Other characters are just as confusing. There is Grayson, an overqualified doorman who is an ally of Rachel and attempts to untie the knots in this plot. He was more helpful to Rachel than to me. There is Amir, an overly qualified concierge. These two characters combined with Rachel’s desire for fashionable clothes may be the reason Rachel constantly returns to her hotel. OK, finally, a connection established. It is the only plausible one I could find.
The Key sells for USD 2.99. I purchased it for USD 0.99 and won’t try to get my money back. But I would make the attempt if I paid the higher price. This is a solid one Amazon star read. I do not recommend it.