The popular Baldacci hits pay dirt big time with his entertaining thriller The Winner. When the enigmatic Mr. Jackson approaches LuAnn Tyler, a young, indigent mother of one, and guarantees her the $100 million national lottery prize, all of her prayers, or possibly all of her fears, become reality.
Baldacci cuts everyone's grass . . . and more than gets away with it.
Absolute Power. Total Control. And now The Winner: Baldacci doesn't settle for second best. Here, his heroine, who gets rich after being forced to participate in a fixed lottery, is wanted for murder.
For David Baldacci, writing has proved far more profitable than practicing law. His first novel, Absolute Power was made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood, and Tri-Star will release his second, Total Control," as a CBS mini-series next year. This is the former Washington D.C., attorney's third novel in as many years, and it's hard not to imagine its achieving the extended shelf-life status of its predecessors, since it has all the trappings of the contemporary action/adventure tale: a fast-paced story that incorporates excitement, suspense and an understanding of technology (Indeed, it is particularly the latter element - technology - that has enabled some of today's most popular fiction writers to turn fantastical plots into believable stories.) The heroine of The Winner is LuAnn Tyler, a smart and beautiful young woman from a backwater Georgia town who lives in a trailer with her baby's father, a no-good bum who drinks away his paycheck, fools around with other women and now seems to have picked up a sideline career in drug dealing. LuAnn dreams of leaving Duane whole she's slinging hash at her all-night, truck stop job, but knows realistically she's unlikely to save enough money to make the break. Enter Jackson, a master of multiple disguises with better-than-average talents for acting, investing and fixing lotteries. He's already successfully fixed a bunch of them, making the recipients enormously wealthy, and now he's settled on LuAnn as the winner of his next lottery scam. Though puzzled by Jackson's offer, LuAnn is also enticed - here's her chance to split from Duane and give her child a more promising future. But she's uncomfortable with the scheme, and ultimately decides to decline. That all changes the morning she's to give Jackson her answer, when she accidentally becomes embroiled in one of Duane's drug deals gone awry. With Jackson's invitation her only shot at avoiding a potential murder conviction, she accepts and she and infant Lisa head for New York City, where the drawing is to take place. Under ordinary circumstances, LuAnn would have accepted the money and gotten her new life under way. But her appearance on TV attracts the interest of the authorities, so Jackson has to spirit her out of the country. She is ordered to make her home in Europe, which she does for 10 years. But she gets weary of being on the run, and wants a more stable life for Lisa, so she sneaks back into the U.S. moving to a home she has bought in Virginia. A substantial portion of the book is devoted to her efforts to evade both the police and Jackson, which is to say the excitement doesn't wane - in fact, it picks up - in the latter half of the book. If you were a bit disappointed with Baldacci's second novel, Total Control, you were justified; it didn't live up to the drama and credibility of Absolute Power. Be assured, however, that The Winner is - well, a winner.
Irritatingly trite woman-in-periler from lawyer-turned-novelist Baldacci. Moving away from the White House and the white-shoe Washington law firms of his previous bestsellers (Absolute Power, 1996; Total Control, 1997), Baldacci comes up with LuAnn Tyler, a spunky, impossibly beautiful, white-trash truck stop waitress with a no-good husband and a terminally cute infant daughter in tow. Some months after the birth of Lisa, LuAnn gets a phone call summoning her to a make-shift office in an unrented storefront of the local shopping mall. There, she gets a Faustian offer from a Mr. Jackson, a monomaniacal, cross-dressing manipulator who apparently knows the winning numbers in the national lottery before the numbers are drawn. It seems that LuAnn fits the media profile of what a lottery winner should bepoor, undereducated but proudand if she's willing to buy the right ticket at the right time and transfer most of her winnings to Jackson, she'll be able to retire in luxury. Jackson fails to inform her, however, that if she refuses his offer, he'll have her killed. Before that can happen, as luck would have it, LuAnn barely escapes death when one of husband Duane's drug deals goes bad. She hops on a first-class Amtrak sleeper to Manhattan with a hired executioner in pursuit. But executioner Charlie, one of Jackson's paid handlers, can't help but hear wedding bells when he sees LuAnn cooing with her daughter. Alas, a winning $100 million lottery drawing complicates things. Jackson spirits LuAnn and Lisa away to Sweden, with Charlie in pursuit. Never fear. Not only will LuAnn escape a series of increasingly violent predicaments, but she'll also outwit Jackson, pay anenormous tax bill to the IRS, and have enough left over to honeymoon in Switzerland. Too preposterous to work as feminine wish-fulfillment, too formulaic to be suspenseful.