If you’re looking for a lightweight quick read to go with popcorn, Baldacci’s latest thriller fits the bill. If you’re looking for subtley, nuance, serious character development and plausible plot, look elsewhere. Baldacci brings us another episode of his dynamic duo Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, former Secret Service turned private investigators who just can’t keep themselves out of trouble but who somehow manage to solve global conspiracies by themselves while magically winning the unpublicized appreciation of the U.S. President at the end of the day. Not unlike a Jack Reacher novel, in fact, although I find Reacher to be more enigmatic and therefore more interesting than this duo.
When the story opens, Maxwell’s maternal instincts appear to suddenly ignite when she spies a troubled teen racing down the road at night in a storm, and learns that he has just been informed that his military father was killed in Afghanistan, leaving the boy alone with his brand-new stepmom. Why Maxwell can’t leave it alone is never made clear, and of course both Maxwell and King get drawn into the plot once the boy –Tyler Wingo–gets an email from his father after his supposed date of death. A huge amount of government money has apparently gone missing, people are being killed left and right, and the boy’s dad is right in the thick of it. When the father is labelled dead by some and a traitor by others, the boy doesn’t know what to believe, and neither do King and Maxwell. Apparently having nothing better to do, they promise the boy that they will solve the mystery –taking on the Pentagon and an unknown number of very bad guys simultaneously.
Throw into the mix a clueless computer genius, a very messy car and a doomsday machine located—where else?—in northern Virginia, and you’ve got all the makings of a roller-coaster ride which is as fun while it lasts as it is forgettable as soon as it ends.