Split Second (Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series #1)

Split Second (Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series #1)

3.9 402
by David Baldacci

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The world can change forever in a single...


Michelle Maxwell has just wrecked her promising career at the Secret Service. Against her instincts, she let a presidential candidate out of her sight for the briefest moment, and the man whose safety was her responsibility vanished into thin air. Sean King knows how theSee more details below

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The world can change forever in a single...


Michelle Maxwell has just wrecked her promising career at the Secret Service. Against her instincts, she let a presidential candidate out of her sight for the briefest moment, and the man whose safety was her responsibility vanished into thin air. Sean King knows how the younger agent feels. Eight years earlier, the hard-charging Secret Service agent allowed his attention to be diverted for a split second. And the candidate he was protecting was gunned down before his eyes. Now Michelle and Sean are about to see their destinies converge.

Drawn into a maze of lies, secrets, and deadly coincidences, the two discredited agents uncover a shocking truth: that the separate acts of violence that shattered their lives were really a long time in the making-and are a long way from over...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"We just solved a huge, complicated mystery," says one protagonist to another in this latest novel from the bestselling author of Last Man Standing, Absolute Power, etc. And that is the problem: this story of two disgraced Secret Service agents who come together to solve two campaign-trail crimes doesn't play to Baldacci's strengths, which are suspense and action (as well as strong characterizations; here's one thriller author who writes people that readers care about). The novel is primarily a mystery, with lots of talk and untangling of clues, and a less than gripping one at that. It begins in 1996, when Secret Service agent Sean King is distracted-by what isn't revealed until near the book's end-just when the presidential candidate he's guarding is shot dead. Eight years later, agent Michelle Maxwell lets the candidate she's watching enter a funeral parlor room alone; he's kidnapped. Then a body appears in the office of King, who's now a successful lawyer in North Carolina. Maxwell sees King on TV and decides to look into the event that caused his disgrace, so similar to hers. Meanwhile, King's old flame, Joan Dillinger, an ex-agent whose security firm has been hired to find the kidnapped presidential candidate, hires King to help in the hunt. The narrative ties binding the characters don't loosen much over the novel's course, as curious cross-currents flow between the two cases, all leading to a cinematic but off-the-wall denouement that reveals a villain who is more cartoon than human. What saves this novel are a few strong but brief action sequences and, above all, the interplay among the principal characters, particularly the romantic tensions among King, Maxwell and Dillinger. This is, alas, Baldacci's weakest thriller in years-but with its terrific title, the Baldacci name and heavy promo, it's bound to hit the lists. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Former Secret Service Agent Sean King tries for vindication, having lost his job when the candidate he was protecting lost his life. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another. Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that "split second," presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that's not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend's widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter's hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King's and Maxwell's every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises. Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehowinterminable action: a lifeless concoction. Author tour. Agent: Aaron Priest
From the Publisher
"The action is explosive. Readers will barely have time to catch their breath."—People"

Pulse-pounding suspense."—Booklist

Genuinely scary scenes...driven by tense action."—New York Daily News"

Great...a fast-paced thriller."—Denver Post

"Pulse-pounding suspense."
"The action is explosive. Readers will barely have time to catch their breath."
Denver Post
"Great...a fast-paced thriller."
New York Daily News
"Genuinely scary scenes...driven by tense action."

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Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series , #1
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
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File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Split Second

By David Baldacci

Time Warner

Copyright © 2003

Columbus Rose, Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Chapter One


The motorcade streamed into the tree-shaded parking lot, where it
disgorged numerous people who looked hot, tired and genuinely
unhappy. The miniature army marched toward the ugly white brick
building. The structure had been many things in its time and
currently housed a decrepit funeral home that was thriving solely
because there was no other such facility within thirty miles and the
dead, of course, had to go somewhere. Appropriately somber gentlemen
in black suits stood next to hearses of the same color. A few
bereaved trickled out the door, sobbing quietly into handkerchiefs.
An old man in a tattered suit that was too large for him and wearing
a battered, oily Stetson sat on a bench outside the front entrance,
whittling. It was just that sort of a place, rural to the hilt,
stock car racing and bluegrass ballads forever.

The old fellow looked up curiously as the procession passed by with
a tall, distinguished-looking man ceremoniously in the middle. The
elderly gent just shook his head and grinned at this spectacle,
showing the few tobacco-stained teeth he had left. Then he took a
nip of refreshment from a flask pulled from his pocket and returned
to his artful wood carving.

The woman, in her early thirties and dressed in a black pantsuit,
was in step behind the tall man. In the past her heavy pistol in the
belt holster had scraped uncomfortably against her side, causing a
scab. As a solution she'd sewn an extra layer of cloth into her
blouses at that spot and learned to live with any lingering
irritation. She'd overheard some of her men joke that all female
agents should wear double shoulder holsters because it gave them a
buxom look without expensive breast enhancement. Yes, testosterone
was alive and well in her world.

Secret Service agent Michelle Maxwell was on the extreme fast track.
She was not yet at the White House detail, guarding the president of
the United States, but she was close. Barely nine years in the
Service, and she was already a protection detail leader. Most agents
spent a decade in the field doing investigative work before even
graduating to protection detail as shift agents, yet Michelle
Maxwell was used to getting to places before other folks.

This was her big preview before almost certain reassignment to the
White House, and she was worried. This was an unscheduled stop, and
that meant no advance team and limited backup. Yet because it was a
last-minute change in plan, the plus side was no one could know they
were going to be there.

They reached the entrance, and Michelle put a firm hand on the tall
man's arm and told him to wait while they scoped things out. The
place was quiet, smelled of death and despair in quiet pockets of
misery centered on coffins in each of the viewing rooms. She posted
agents at various key points along the man's path: "giving feet" as
it was called in Service parlance. Properly done, the simple act of
having a professional with a gun and communication capability
standing in a doorway could work wonders.

She spoke into her walkie-talkie, and the tall man, John Bruno, was
brought in. She led him down the hallway as gazes from the viewing
rooms wandered to them. A politician and his entourage on the
campaign trail were like a herd of elephants: they could travel
nowhere lightly. They stomped the earth until it hurt with the
weight of the guards, chiefs of staff, spokespersons, speechwriters,
publicity folks, gofers and others. It was a spectacle that if it
didn't make you laugh would at least cause you considerable worry
about the future of the country.

John Bruno was running for the office of president of the United
States, and he had absolutely no chance of winning. Looking far
younger than his fifty-six years, he was an independent candidate
who'd used the support of a small but strident percentage of the
electorate fed up with just about everything mainstream to qualify
for each state's national ballot. Thus, he'd been given Secret
Service protection, though not at the staffing level of a bona fide
contender. It was Michelle Maxwell's job to keep him alive until the
election. She was counting the days.

Bruno was a former iron-balls prosecutor, and he'd made a great
number of enemies, only some of whom were currently behind bars. His
political planks were fairly simple. He'd tell you he wanted
government off the backs of the people and free enterprise to rule.
As for the poor and weak, those not up to the task of unfettered
competition, well, in all other species the weak died and the strong
prevailed, and why should it be any different for us? Largely
because of that position, the man had no chance of winning. Although
America loved its tough guys, they weren't ready to vote for leaders
who exhibited no compassion for the downtrodden and miserable, for
on any given day they might constitute a majority.

The trouble started when Bruno entered the room trailed by his chief
of staff, two aides, Michelle and three of her men. The widow
sitting in front of her husband's coffin looked up sharply. Michelle
couldn't see her expression through the veil the woman was wearing
but assumed her look was one of surprise at seeing this herd of
interlopers invading hallowed ground. The old woman got up and
retreated to a corner, visibly shaking.

The candidate whirled on Michelle. "He was a dear friend of mine,"
Bruno snapped, "and I am not going to parade in with an army. Get
out," he added tersely.

"I'll stay," she fired back. "Just me." He shook his head. They'd
had many such standoffs. He knew that his candidacy was a hopeless
long shot, and that just made him try even harder. The pace had been
brutal, the protection logistics a nightmare.

"No, this is private!" he growled. Bruno looked over at the
quivering woman in the corner. "My God, you're scaring her to death.
This is repugnant."

Michelle went back one more time to the well. He refused yet again,
leading them all out of the room, berating them as he did. What the
hell could happen to him in a funeral home? Was the eighty-year-old
widow going to jump him? Was the dead man going to come back to
life? Michelle sensed that her protectee was really upset because
she was costing him valuable campaign time. Yet it wasn't her idea
to come here. However, Bruno was in no mood to hear that.

No chance to win, and the man acted like he was king of the hill. Of
course, on election day the voters, including Michelle, would kick
his butt right out the door.

As a compromise Michelle asked for two minutes to sweep the room.
This was granted, and her men moved quickly to do so while she
silently fumed, telling herself that she had to save her ammo for
the really important battles.

Her men came out 120 seconds later and reported everything okay.
Only one door in and out. No windows. Old lady and dead guy the only
occupants. It was cool. Not perfect, but okay. Michelle nodded at
her candidate. Bruno could have his private face time, and then they
could get out of here.

Inside the viewing room, Bruno closed the door behind him and walked
over to the open coffin. There was another coffin against the far
wall; it was also open, but empty. The deceased's coffin was resting
on a raised platform with a white skirting that was surrounded
waist-high with an assortment of beautiful flowers. Bruno paid his
respects to the body lying there, murmuring, "So long, Bill," as he
turned to the widow, who'd returned to her chair. He knelt in front
of her, gently held one of her hands.

"I'm so sorry, Mildred, so very sorry. He was a good man." The
bereaved looked up at him from behind the veil, smiled and then
looked down again. Bruno's expression changed and he looked around,
though the only other occupant of the room was in no condition to
eavesdrop. "Now, you mentioned something else you wanted to talk
about. In private."

"Yes," the widow said in a very low voice. "I'm afraid I don't have
much time, Mildred. What is it?" In answer she placed a hand on his
cheek, and then her fingers touched his neck. Bruno grimaced as he
felt the sharp prick against his skin, and then he slipped to the
floor unconscious.


Excerpted from Split Second
by David Baldacci
Copyright © 2003 by Columbus Rose, Ltd..
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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