This should have been another rip-roaring Baldacci thriller. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, the former Secret Service agents who have starred in four previous novels, are off to Maine, where Tom Bergin, Sean’s former mentor and the lawyer for an accused serial killer, has asked them to look into the case. En route, they encounter a parked car with its four-ways flashing. Inside is Bergin’s murdered body. Is his client, who’s locked up in a supermax prison, somehow responsible? And, if so, why? This intriguing story is marred by uncharacteristically poor writing. Baldacci’s characters tell each other things they should already know, for the benefit of the reader; dialogue is repeated, as though the author has forgotten he’s already covered this ground (or he thinks we’re too dim to remember the information); the characters are thin; and the dialogue is stilted. Like a rookie, Baldacci seems to think there’s something wrong with the word said, leaving his characters to retort, reply, counter, and grouse (sometimes all on the same page). Fans will likely flock to the book because of Baldacci’s track record, but fair warning: they might feel short-changed by his sloppy storytelling.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, April 2011.