Baldacci turns in another action-packed thriller, bringing back government assassin Will Robie to thrill us with his deadly skills (and to make us wonder what the hell he is doing killing people for the government!) This time, Baldacci gives us double the excitement by giving us a female Will Robie in the form of Jessica Reel, another government assassin who had trained with Robie, but who has apparently gone rogue and killed several American government agents, including the number two in the CIA.
When Robie is tapped to bring Reel in, dead or alive, he takes on the assignment, no questions asked, knowing full well that she could well be his match and that this might be his final assignment. Robie is still a total loner, living for nothing but the mission, the kill, the next mission, the next kill. Only those who have read Baldacci’s previous Robie novel The Innocent will know that our “hero” is prepared to question his orders when given a reason, even at great cost. As he starts to hunt down Reel, he quickly discovers that there is more to her so-called “treason” than meets the eye, even when she almost manages to burn him alive in an elaborate trap. When his own employers hide important facts from him, he becomes increasingly susceptible to the idea of working with Reel instead of against her, and once the two join forces, the high-level conspirators inside the U.S. government that she had been battling now become his enemy as well.
Although Baldacci makes it clear that Robie, in particular, is not merely the lethal machine his employers trained him to be, and that he has a sharp mind and a moral compass of sorts, he unfortunately does not give enough depth to Robie’s character to enable us to penetrate much below the surface. Reel is given a bit more of a profile, and she is certainly as scary–and as sad–as Robie. Baldacci shies away from making this an overtly political novel, but nonetheless repeatedly takes us into the dirty underbelly of American politics—whether it be in Washington DC, in Langley, or in the survivalist camps of Arkansas and elsewhere. His portrayal of a home-grown but high-level conspiracy seeking to sow chaos and terror as a means of installing a post-9/11 Homeland Security-style dictatorship in the U.S. (and globally) is, unhappily, all too believable. What Baldacci does so expertly is leave us guessing and re-guessing who the mastermind is until the very end.