Pulley’s debut is a story of theft, seduction and greed in a stately bank building.
In 1998, 20 years after the doors of the First Bank of Cleveland were mysteriously chained shut, 23-year-old civil engineer Iris Latch is put on an assignment of a “sensitive nature.” Happy to be out of her cubicle, she has to spend her days in the abandoned building doing a “renovation feasibility study” for an anonymous buyer. With free reign to explore, Iris discovers offices that were left preserved almost exactly as they were on the day the bank closed. When she finds that several safe-deposit boxes still have items of value inside them and stumbles on key No. 547 in a desk drawer, Iris is determined to return the key to its rightful owner, leading her down a rabbit hole of scandal, theft and murder. Interwoven with Iris’ investigation is the story of Beatrice Baker, a 16-year-old secretary who worked in the bank in 1978 and stumbled on the same mystery of key No. 547 as it was unfolding. Reading clues written in shorthand by a friend who has disappeared, Beatrice discovered that the contents of more than 100 safe-deposit boxes were officially missing. The two storylines converge nicely, leading both characters into the same intricate web of secrets and betrayals. The author imbues the bank with great physical presence, its architecture, floor plans and structure all meticulously described, creating a setting that feels alive and haunted, but the convoluted plot, great length and uneven pacing become a bit cumbersome. While the two heroines are engaging, the mystery might not move quickly enough for many readers.
For readers who do make it to the end, there is genuine suspense with satisfying surprises.