The Sixth Man – David Baldacci

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Former Secret Service Agents and current Private Investigators, and partners in life, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are led to Maine, courtesy a call from King’s friend and lawyer Ted Bergin. Bergin is appointed the lead attorney to represent Edgar Roy, the highest profile convict in the State of Maine. Convicted of murdering six individuals and burying them in his own barn, Ray is locked up behind the seemingly impenetrable walls of the high security criminal detention facility that is Cutter’s Rock. Bergin requests the duo to meet him for dinner at a quaint place called Martha’s Inn, where lodgings have also been arranged for the visitors. On the way to the rendezvous, King and Michelle are drawn to the blinking hazard lights of a Buick which is parked off the road. Stopping to provide assistance to the stranded driver, King and Michelle are presented with a sight that sends a shiver up their spine. Bearing a single shot to his forehead, courtesy a .32 slug, Ted Bergin lies lifeless behind the steering wheel. When an FBI team swoops down upon Maine led by the irascible Agent Brandon Murdock and Edgar Roy has a past that is inextricably linked to national security, all hell breaks loose as King and Maxwell realise that they might just have bitten more than what they could possibly chew.

David Baldacci is regarded as one of the most bankable thriller writers going about his business in the literary world. In “The Sixth Man”, he lives up to this expectation by delivering a slobber knocker. A book worthy of being produced into a Hollywood blockbuster (and starring Tom Cruise and Mila Jovovic – yes I am endorsing these two in addition to Mr. Baldacci), the book is a potent concoction of turmoil, tension and taut strings. Trigger happy hitmen blend together with backstabbing politicians as they go face to face with patriotic businessmen and mercenary assassins. In the process, logic and reality are thrown out the window. But as the producers of Mission Impossible would be wont to exclaim, “screw logic!”

King as a former Secret Service agent is surprisingly portrayed to be a subdued and calm personality, more of an analyst than an executioner. The star of the book is undoubtedly Michelle Maxwell. Bringing to her business a combination of punch words and lethal martial art punches, she punches beyond her weight. A repository of knowledge on hand held weapons, a gun is just an extension of her firing arm. Edgar Roy is an unsuspecting genius whose appreciable sense of patriotism gets lost in an unfortunate bout of curiosity.

While King and Maxwell are hot in pursuit of Bergin’s killer the body count begins to raise hard and fast. Quick and the Dead reenacted all over again. In the midst of falling bodies and failed missions, there is played out an existential capitalist struggle at the forefront of which are two protagonists. Peter Bunting, a genius and a technology wizard is steadfast in his mission to protect America from every possible external intrusion and aggression. Towards this end, he develops the Wall, an innovation so breathtaking that the Department of Homeland Security falls in love with it. Mason Quantrell, a former employer of Bunting is outpaced and outsmarted every step of the way by his former protégé as he also aspires to bag a chunk of Government largesse. But both men find a formidable obstacle in the form of Secretary of State Ellen Foster and her henchman James Harkes. Either man would be successful in his endeavor only if he can get the blessings of Ms. Foster.

A bit over-the-top in corny punch lines and action sequences, “The Sixth Man” is enervating in passages. However, this tedium is just interspersed amidst a high tension pace that keeps ratcheting the pages.

“The Sixth Man”, a Baldacci imprimatur.