In every saga, there comes a point in the story where the page literally turns on one chapter, and another begins. The bad guys have been dispatched, the light of justice has been shown into the dark corners of crime. The villains run away to lick their wounds and plot and scheme for another day. A new adventure begins. For Gibson Vaughn fans, this is DEBRIS LINE, the latest thriller from Matthew Fitzsimmons.

The first three installments of the Gibson Vaughn series were meticulously plotted, intricate thrillers that read more like literary fiction than the more standard “short sentences/bold action/sullen hero/drinks more coffee” style that you usually find on the thriller shelf. While thrillers have historically not been my favorite section in the bookstore, in this case, the old adage “you just haven’t found the right author” holds true. Fitzsimmons won me over with the strength of his word craft, and this quickly became one of my favorite ongoing series. SHORT DROP, POISONFEATHER, and COLD HARBOR are intense thrillers that deal with political machinations and the horrific tragedies Gibson Vaughn must uncover and cope with. Tragedies buried deep in Vaughn’s own past. The sins of the past reach into the politics of today. When the last page of COLD HARBOR is turned, it looks like things have finally resolved, and Vaughn, Jenn Charles, Dan Hendricks, and George Abe seemed to have earned their rest.

We meet up Vaughn and his compatriots enjoying their rest in the Algarve region of Portugal. While the assumption would be that after all of their trials, the group would now be a tightly knit band-of-brothers, that is not the case. Abe has brokered a deal with the local crime family to shelter the group. So basic needs are taken care of while everyone else lays low. Vaughn is trying his best to stay fit and sharp. Jenn Charles- arguably the most intimidating and capable member of the group- has fallen prey to drink and the possibility of romantic happiness. Hendricks continues to be a solitary figure, but it’s clear the stress of their ordeal is having a physical effect on the ex-policeman. With the group a breath away from dissolution, they are pulled back together by the hijacking of a massive shipment of narcotics. The Romanians are suspected, and the Alves family needs to deliver this shipment on time, or the Mexican cartel will consider it treason if they don’t. Now Vaughn and his friends must come back together to repay their benefactor, or else.

At this point we get into one of the biggest differences between DEBRIS LINE and the preceding novels: the first three instalments are introspective expeditions into the past of the Vaughn family. The stakes are intensely personal. With the newest chapter, the dangers are all external and reactionary. Fitzsimmons uses this change in focus to give the reader a lot of time with the Alves family. This is not a group of cartoon mustache-twirling villains. Fitzsimmons takes the time to flesh out the intrigues, motivations, and backstabbing machinations of this snake pit of a family. Vaughn and Co. don’t want to help with the distribution of the narcotics, but they need to keep the peace in the Algarve for their own purposes. But the timeline that the hijackers have put on the shipment is already cutting things close.

Fitzsimmons clearly used this novel to try a new approach to the ongoing adventures of Gibson Vaughn, and it absolutely pays dividends. Returning fans are back for a new adventure, and new readers will find that DEBRIS LINE is absolutely the perfect jumping on point to the series.


Dan Malmon