King and Maxwell by David Baldacci

King and Maxwell

Read August 2016
Recommended for fans of movie thrillers
 ★     ★   

None of my friends have reviewed this book. Friends, this is your fault. I hold you all responsible. As well as my mother’s eighty-five year-old friend who loaned her this book. It just goes to show you that even elderly ladies can’t be trusted, particularly ones with brain cancer. Just sayin’.

A moderately readable beginning that careened between two ex-Secret Service Agents running a detective agency and the adventures of a lone soldier on a critical mission in the Middle East. Son running away after he is officially notified that his father is dead hires the detective team; father goes AWOL to solve who framed him. Canned dialogue, but vaguely likeable characters and an interesting set-up. I found myself extremely intrigued by the parallel story of the soldier/father making his way through the desert country, and less interested in the push-pull of the dynamic between the investigators, the teen and the government officials.

Inspiration always hits at just the right time (a man crossing the street! a car coming by with a familiar face! a conveniently married ex-wife!), aided by the almost literal deux ex machina of an autistic computer whiz who can obtain all information anywhere, conveniently working for Department of Homeland Security. The situation becomes ever more unbearable with a somewhat forced analogy to the Iran-Contra affair and a psychopath bent on revenge. Somewhat unhelpfully, Baldacci channels wikipedia so he can explain Iran-Contra all the readers under thirty just what that was, as well as all the readers older than thirty who forgot that was even a big deal (Reagan was perfect! so says the hazy fog of conservative memory).

Characters were straight from Central Casting: rugged older gentleman; the younger, daredevil female partner; a mopey teenager; the unquestioning, betrayed soldier; the Agency man who is just following orders; the psychopath bent on revenge. Nothing makes sense beyond the surface description, so when they act inconsistently, it is uncomfortably clear that it is in service to the plot, not out of character creation.

I started skimming large swaths (view spoiler), although I returned for the end. I felt strangely like I had watched Speed, The Bourne Ultimatum, and In the Line of Fire. Apparently this was a single-season TNT tv show, and I can absolutely see tv on every page of the book. Action escalates to ridiculously implausible degrees, culminating in the absolute silliest of scenes, which is then topped–ala Speed–by an even more ridiculous capstone which made the minimal character development earlier almost meaningless.

Read it friends. It’s really, really good. I would even go so far to say that it is the thriller version of A Discovery of Witches.



About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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6 Responses to King and Maxwell by David Baldacci

  1. neotiamat says:

    *narrows eyes* I do not trust your recommendation. Iiiiii knooow yoooou.

    Apropos of nothing, I’ll say that back when I was teaching, Iran-Contra was my absolutely favorite topic to teach undergrads. Usually no one had ever heard of it, and their expressions always grew delightfully wide-eyed and disbelieving as I went through all the complicated permutations. So. Much. Fun.

    • thebookgator says:

      What? You’ll like it, I’m sure.
      Or maybe not 😀
      I can’t believe you taught Iran-Contra. I made a huge effort to understand it and then it all fell out of my head about an hour later. Apparently stupid plots don’t originate just with Hollywood.

      • neotiamat says:

        Well, I have the advantage of years of training and extensive preparation… by which I mean I mostly read the Wikipedia article on it and took some notes (secrets of education REVEALED). It was a low-level survey course, so it was more like a 15 minute section during my Iran lecture.

        Anyway, I adore Iran-Contra, mostly for being such a cavalcade of unbelievable scheming. I mean, it reads like a 2nd-rate airport thriller, but it actually happened! I am honestly shocked that more people don’t know about it (I mean, we were selling weapons to BOTH SIDES of the Iran-Iraq War — that’s cartoon villain levels of evil).

      • thebookgator says:

        Secrets of a T.A. … now I know. One step ahead.
        Unbelievable scheming about describes it, along with cartoon villain levels of evil. Or stupidity. I think they read too many comic books when they were younger.

  2. neotiamat says:

    Oh no, this was when I was a full adjunct professor. It’s actually a variation on what is pretty much standard operating procedure for running a class. Most professors, unless something is *very* close to their specialty, will simply dig up an obscure textbook and use that as the skeleton for their lectures — paraphrase chapters and so forth. I was running a very broad class, so I found Wikipedia more useful than lugging around a textbook the size of my dog.

    Also, intelligence services engaging in Bond Villain levels of “what the hell” is a surprisingly common thread in espionage, especially during the Cold War — though more of a CIA than a KGB flaw (the latter had actual experience with being secret police). MKULTRA is my other favorite story from this era, particularly the sex-and-cocaine fueled madness that was Operation Midnight Climax.

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