The thriller Debris Line interchanges the sunny, idyllic life of coastal Portugal, crashing it into a star-spangled actioneer of drugs, hijacking, murder, and oh yes, crimes even more sinister. Matthew FitzSimmons runs his dangerous version of To Catch A Thief by placing his team of semi-retired hackers and military ops at play on vacation and even in love, until being forced back into action – at least as advisers – in a case of a textbook hijacking. George Abe and hacker Gibson Vaughn quickly learn that their benefactor has interesting enemies as they are forced to both clear their name, and also prevent a civil war between the cartel.
Following the initial Gibson Vaughn trilogy, Debris Line is undoubtedly a palate cleanser. The acquainted, and by this point likable, characters have been positioned in an entirely-different location, with an unfamiliar local language, forcing them to scrap with limited resources, Ferraris and Audis notwithstanding. The creation of a great cast, which includes former-LAPD Dan Hendricks and ex-CIA Jenn Charles, means for this outing, the spotlight is communal. Vaughn, then, doesn’t get the chance to shine. When Han Solo joined the Rebels and Batman formed the Justice League, character understood the necessity of the team. Vaughn’s private arc concluded with Cold Harbor. George Abe is firmly set here as team lead. When Leia is in the comm, Han is solely a pilot. Batman works in the shadows of Superman’s radiance. An independent hacker-operator’s skill is now, well, only needed for special occasions. Fortunately, and something that FitzSimmons has been strong to uphold ever since the Short Drop, is restraining Vaughn’s abilities, removing him as a deus ex machina savior with his Hollywood-level science. Debris Line is a team effort, and Vaughn, maturing since his inception, is now a team player.
FitzSimmons subtlety works in an unresolved plot element, one that will hopefully grow. In fact, it was surprising not to have Vaughn’s special benefactors revealed in a plot-shaking twist. Instead, FitzSimmons allows the marinara to simmer while keeping the plot al dente.
Debris Line is a fast book, but FitzSimmons’ pacing is never rushed. The action explodes when the much-needed tension requires a release, but all the characters are given their due. Of course, throttling back on any such twists truly prevented Debris Line from rocketing into orbit. If anything, this read needed to be a touch wilder with its exploration.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the advance copy and fun read. I’m a fan and continue to look forward to FitzSimmons’ next novel.