A BIT OF A DISAPPOINTMENT
Nicholas Creel is the CEO of Ares Corporation, a multi-national arms manufacturer and Richard Pender is Creel’s PM (perception manager). Pender’s job is to create “truth,” facts that a target populace will believe virtually unquestioned, and his current task is to make the world think that Russia is committing mass genocide within its borders. Creel’s reason for this perception management is two-fold: to bring Ares back into the black financially with increased arms sales and to neutralize the Middle Eastern terrorist regimes by instituting a global cold war situation.
While Creel truly cares about global peace and other humanitarian concerns, he also believes in the inevitability and the necessity of collateral damage to achieve his goals. Thus, as each step of his plan is implemented, those who help that implementation are eliminated – with extreme prejudice.
And that is where our main protagonists, Shaw and Katie James, come into the story. Shaw is a rather talented undercover field agent for a multi-national law enforcement agency, currently on assignment in Europe. Katie James is a two-time Pulitzer-winning journalist who has lost her professional standing due to PTSD and alcoholism following a traumatic Middle Eastern incident.
Hoping for a story that will reincarnate her career, Katie quietly inserts herself into one of Shaw’s operations and it goes south. Shaw gets them away relatively unscathed but refuses to cooperate with her need for the story. So Katie searches his room, finding a connection between Shaw and a Mensa-level political analyst, Anna Jeffries, who works for a think-tank based in London.
Unbeknownst to James, Jeffries has come to the attention of Creel and Pender as a dissident to their PM plan, a credible dissident to whom the world might listen. So, the day after Katie, still trying to get her comeback story, meets with Anna, Creel has Anna – and the entire think tank staff – executed and framed for instigating the PM attack against Russia.
Quite pleased with himself, Creel is blithely unaware that he has just sealed the fate of both his world plan and his own longevity. Creel simply doesn’t know that he has just executed the woman that Shaw was to marry. And revenge will not be a dish served cold.
If you have read Baldacci’s Camel Club series, then you have a good idea about the character that is Shaw. The similarities between Shaw and Oliver Stone are quite obvious. They are not physically similar men, nor are they the same age, but they are in the same arena mentally and emotionally. Their mad skills are not identical, but are equally exceptional. Each loses the love of his life as they try to retire from their respective agencies. Even the title of this book, “The Whole Truth,” jibes with Oliver Stone’s slogan: I want the truth. And this novel and its sequel were written concurrently with the last two novels of the Camel Club series. Comparisons and contrasts made, in my opinion, Oliver Stone is the better character and the Camel Club series is better done.
While I was a bit put off by the copycat aspect, my opinion of the book was reduced more by the mistakes involving the passage of time. For instance, the execution of the actor who filmed the very first web video for the PM campaign appears to take place weeks after the video airs rather than mere days as the PM plan indicated. However, the most glaring error seems to occur when Shaw makes it clear that it has been 5 days since he found out about Anna’s death, unable to go to the scene immediately due to his own critical injuries in another country. Yet when he does arrive at the scene, the bodies have only just been removed and the bagged evidence is still on the desks. Bodies at an actively worked crime scene for 5 days? I don’t think so!
The final drop for the rating came as a result of the manner in which Baldacci set up the final confrontation. Two things happened. First, the author relies on the old “villain needs to brag and explain himself” routine, giving Shaw time to rescue Katie. Well, Creel has never explained himself before, so why should he do it now?
And secondly, when the identity of the mole in the investigation is revealed, Baldacci simply has Shaw state that he already knew who it was, but does not have Shaw explain in even the smallest way how the agency knew. Considering how close to the investigation this mole was, it would have been practically impossible for Shaw and Katie to pull off what they did in the manner in which they did it. Therefore, the climax comes off as the result of a deus ex machina on the part of Baldacci, rather than as a plausible scenario.
I inadvertently read the sequel to this novel 3 years ago. Looking back to it, I feel that the sequel is better written, but that feeling may only exist because I now know Shaw’s backstory. I am far more diligent these days about reading entries of a series in order; but still, this is the first Baldacci novel that I have been disappointed with.
Cover Art from Goodreads