Review - NO TIME TO LOSE, Matt Baak
NO TIME TO LOSE is Matt Baak's debut novel, set in the high-tech, high octane world of bank robberies in the current day. Which are considerably less about fronting the bank waving a gun around, and more the very high-tech way in which time locks, centralised security, and automatic systems have to be circumvented.
The plot of NO TIME TO LOSE is an interesting one - it does seem that bank robberies are a lot less common in this day and age, as their security and loss prevention methodologies have tightened, and employees are so much more protected. The back ways in are getting more varied though - with threats to family, elaborate technical solutions or just plain old hard graft. They must be still an overwhelming temptation - particularly for a gang like the one in this book, lead by ruthless crook, precisely planned, cleverly executed and utterly ruthless. There was much to be engaged by in this element of the book. The way that everything seemed to be considered, total silence on the part of the robbers, the timing of the robbery, and hence the getaway, as well as the fallback options for getting into the actual vault, and circumventing that time lock, centralised system security.
On the side of the good is FBI consultant Kip Keplar, but his efforts are complicated by the contents of the vault. Military secrets, hidden assets, and a mysterious gem all have to be declared to start off with, let alone found. Which means he's hampered by secrets and reluctance. He's got to be ruthless and focused, although Keplar wasn't quite as effective a character as the villains for this reader alas. Perhaps it was the slightly coy way in which he's bought into the action in the first place, undoubtedly it is a personal preference for the unrepentantly flawed hero.
Needless to say it's a complicated but interesting plot device that kind of works in NO TIME TO LOSE. What doesn't work so well is the very detailed, heavily on the tell side, storytelling style. There are great screeds of information presented to the reader throughout the book - descriptions of places, feelings, character's motivations, technicalities, everything is intricately explained. Not a lot is left to the reader's imagination giving a very pointed sense of being told all the way, and frequently after the event. Rarely is the reader shown and left to interpret. It's obvious that a lot of thought, and research went into a lot of elements in this book, and whilst there's undoubtedly a very big temptation to use all of that, less is so much more when it comes to thrillers. More contributes to slowing down the plot, and creates a sense of information dump, as opposed to a tale being told.
It's a fault common in many debut novels though, and one that can be easily overcome once that all important first novel is out of the road, and the author can settle into the nature of good yarn telling (or alternatively a really good editor comes on board to help craft the story into something that's structured with the reader in mind). Huge points for the idea though, it's a great one.
Kip Keplar is intrigued by the perfect bank robbery. Whoever pulled it off slipped away with a mysterious ancient gem, property belonging to modern-day titans and US military secrets.
The authorities know "what" was taken and "why" (greed - why else?) but no clue as to "when", "how" or by "who".
Retrieving this bountiful treasure-trove at all costs is an understatement. Wits are matched and tested and lives are on the line as the clock counts down, and there is no time to lose, for both the hunters and the hunted.