Ostensibly, Baldacci’s latest is another novel (after The Whole Truth, 2008) about Shaw, the enigmatic agent working for an enigmatic organization. But it feels a lot more like the launch of a brand-new series, as though Baldacci is using a familiar character, Shaw, to segue to a new series lead: Regina “Reggie” Campion, a beautiful and deadly woman who works for an even-more-enigmatic group dedicated to ridding the world of evil. Both Shaw and Reggie are after the same man, Evan Waller, although each of them is unaware of it. To Shaw, Waller is a dealer in black-market nuclear materials; to Reggie, he’s the former Fedir Kuchin, a Ukrainian mass murderer. Reggie and Shaw both arrive in Provence, where Waller/Kuchin is vacationing. This is a very clever novel, and full marks go to Baldacci for pulling off an especially difficult type of story—one in which neither of the central characters knows entirely what’s going on, while the reader is omniscient. It’s a lot of fun watching the two scope each other out, trying to determine whether the other is a threat (even as their mutual attraction grows). We become intensely involved in the story, wishing we could step inside the book and clue its two protagonists into what’s going on. The only problem—for fans of Shaw, anyway—is that, in Reggie, Baldacci has created such an interesting and engaging character that he might have made Shaw redundant.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, March 2010.