The latest thriller by David Baldacci doesn’t just follow our heroes, Will Robie and Jessica Reel, and their enemy. No, this series of parallel tales tells at least four stories that could stand on their own, intermingling and twisting together and apart until the final battle royale we’ve come to expect. Like King and Maxwell, Baldacci’s characters-turned-TNT action show, our pair of CIA operatives-turned-heroes banter, philosophize, and battle evil in whatever forms it may present itself in twenty-eighth novel.
In the “main” storyline, we find some shadowy, government nemeses of Robie and Reel’s drawing them in to a showdown with equally shadowy enemy agents from North Korea. Baldacci digs into the characterization of one of them, Yie Chung-Cha, so deeply, that we can even empathize with her position as a former concentration camp prisoner-turned-assassin. [Trust me, you will.] In another offshoot from the main story, we track a Neo-Nazi murderer on death row who sets in motion a plan to ‘reunite’ with his estranged daughter, inciting a showdown with some twenty-first century Hitler groupies. And finally, in what might best be compared to the stellar finale of Patriot Games with our heroes defending the lives of the First Family. That doesn’t even cover the extraction from an internment camp or the battle on a train!
Baldacci’s writing style is slick, with entertaining dialogue and even description to flesh out both his characters and their surroundings. It’s exciting action mixed with an underlying sense of morality, as usual. This time, we’re looking at how several of the characters deal with their pasts and how it affects who they’ve become, as well as sentiments around revenge and forgiveness. In several cases, forgiveness comes hard (doesn’t it usually?) and allows us to see that revenge on a personal or global level often just begets more violence, not satisfaction or peace.
Not everyone will want to take the thought deeper, but how do we apply that to our own lives? Are we always seeking revenge, whether it’s being cut off in the parking lot or deep hurt from our childhood? It seems there’s never any satisfaction, even when Baldacci’s ‘revengers’ are in the right. We could learn from that… even if we’re not highly-effective government assassins.