Baldacci's last book, Split Second, was a relatively weak offering from this bestselling author, sunk by a cartoonish villain and absurd plot. But it did introduce two of Baldacci's (Absolute Power, etc.) most memorable characters, former Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, in business together as private investigators in smalltown Wrightsburg, Va. Baldacci is back in form, and King and Maxwell reappear in this utterly absorbing, complex mystery-thriller that spins in unexpected directions. The novel starts as a serial-killer thriller, for there's a murderer at work in Wrightsburg whose selection of victims appears random but whose modus operandi, differing from kill to kill, mimics the work of a notorious serial killer-the Zodiac killer, John Wayne Gacy, etc. The fifth victim is local resident and international tycoon Robert E. Lee Battle. King and Maxwell have already been tangling with the gothic horror show of a dysfunctional Southern family that is the Battles, as they've been hired to help prove the innocence of a Battle handyman accused of stealing from the family. Then that handyman is murdered, and the duo (along with a clueless local sheriff and an obnoxious FBI agent) must race to figure out if the same killer is behind all the murders and, if so, why. There are terrific action sequences sprinkled throughout, and plenty of suspense, and the King/Maxwell relationship, while not romantic, emits sparks. It's Baldacci's portrayal of smalltown Southern life, however, and his sharp characterizations of the Battles, from the bombastic Bobby and his regal widow to his weird extended family, that give the novel texture and depth: this is Baldacci's most accomplished tale since his nonthriller Wish You Well, and it rivals that novel in its social commentary. Despite fair clues, few if any readers will ID the villain (villains?) before they're revealed, and a snappy surprise ending will have Baldacci's many fans remembering why they love this author so much. Agent, Aaron Priest. (Oct. 26) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
One of the residents of a small lakeside town in central Virginia has an IQ of 165, belongs to Mensa, and completes the New York Times crossword puzzle with ease every Sunday. He also happens to be a serial killer. In his tenth novel (after Split Second), Baldacci reaffirms his position at the top of the psychological thriller genre with this intriguing examination of a murderer's psyche. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, who first appeared in Split Second, return as former Secret Service agents trying to track down a meticulous killer who doesn't make mistakes. The killer taunts the authorities by leaving on his victims a watch set to the hour corresponding with their position on his hit list. The investigation weaves throughout the aptly named Battle family, a traditional Southern clan full of dark secrets and steamy lies. To end this killer's game, King and Maxwell must solve the riddle of intertwining motives and alibis. Strongly recommended for most popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/04.]-Ken Bolton, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A serial killer with a sense of history is the baddie in this latest from Baldacci, one of the reigning kings of potboilers (Split Second, 2003, etc.). He kills, he leaves clues, he flatters through imitation: Son of Sam, the San Francisco Zodiac killer, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gracy, and so on down a sanguinary list of accredited members of the Monsters' Hall of Fame. Suddenly, the landscape of poor little Wrightsburg, Virginia, is littered with corpses, and ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have their hands full. That's because bewildered, beleaguered Chief of Police Todd Williams has turned to the newly minted private investigating firm of King and Maxwell for desperately needed (unofficial) help. Even these ratiocinative wizards, however, admit to puzzlement. "But I'm not getting this," says Michelle. "Why commit murders in similar styles to past killers as a copycat would and then write letters making it clear you're not them?" Excellent question, and it goes pretty much unanswered. Never mind-enter the battling Battles, a family with the requisite number of sins and secrets to qualify fully as hot southern Gothic and to prop up a plot in need. Bobby Battles, the patriarch, is bedridden, but Remmy, his wife, is one lively mischief-making steel magnolia. She's brought breaking-and-entering charges against decent local handyman Junior Deaver, who as a result languishes in the county jail. Convinced of his innocence, Junior's lawyer hires King & Maxwell to sniff around for exculpatory evidence. Well, will the two plot streams flow together? You betcha. Will the copycat-serial-killer at one point decide that King and Maxwell are just too clever to live?Inevitably. And when at last that CCSK's identity is revealed and his crimes explained (talkily and tediously), will readers be satisfied? Only the charitable among them. Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.
"King and Maxwell are fictional treats, a fabulously entertaining team, and the action is hot and hard."
"HOUR GAME has the elements of a classic Baldacci thriller. His characters keep getting better and richer and the plots-while always tight and well executed-are becoming more intricate and realistic...There is no question: David Baldacci will stay on the bestseller list for a long time to come."
"The action is suspenseful and relentless."
"King and Maxwell are fictional treats, a fabulously entertaining team, and the action is hot and hard."New York Daily News
"The action is suspenseful and relentless."Newark Star-Ledger
"Utterly absorbing...spins in unexpected directions...There are terrific action sequences throughout and plenty of suspense...texture and depth...A snappy surprise ending will have Baldacci's many fans remembering why they love this author so much."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"HOUR GAME has the elements of a classic Baldacci thriller. His characters keep getting better and richer and the plots-while always tight and well executed-are becoming more intricate and realistic...There is no question: David Baldacci will stay on the bestseller list for a long time to come."Richmond Times-Dispatch