IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY
Mace Perry just spent two years in Federal prison for crimes she did not commit. Actually, she did commit the crimes; she just did not know she was doing so. While an undercover narcotics detective for the Washington, DC, police force, she was kidnapped off the street, forcibly addicted to drugs, and then dragged along as part of a crew that specialized in armed robbery. After one of their forays, the crew deliberately slipped away and left Mace in the store holding the gun, literally.
The gun was not loaded and Mace didn’t even know who she was, but that didn’t matter to the particularly ambitious US attorney, Mona Danforth, who tried her case. She was able to convince a jury that Mace had simply slipped to the dark side while undercover. And Mace’s sister, DC Chief of Police Beth Perry, had not been able to find enough evidence to contradict the gun or the videotapes.
Mace has never wanted to be anything but a cop, a “blue” as they refer to themselves in DC. But convicted of a felony, she cannot carry a gun, so she cannot go back to the force or even get a license as a PI. To get back what she lost, she knows she has to get herself exonerated.
However, Mona Danforth is now in line for a prime federal appointment. Furious that Mace got only two years instead of twenty-to-life and determined not to have her future derailed by an overturned conviction, Danforth preempts Mace’s plans by approaching the police review board prior to Mace’s release, planting seeds of suspicion regarding any “new” evidence that might be “discovered” by a police official related to a felon. Thus, she hopes to not only thwart Mace but to set up Mace’s sister to be publically discredited, even fired and charged with a felony herself. A major coup like that would most likely insure Mona’s political future.
However, as sociopaths are wont to do, Danforth brags to Mace about what she has done. She even crows about how her plan will destroy Mace’s sister’s life at the same time. Oh, Mona, as the saying goes, “you really shouldn’t have done that!” Apparently, Danforth has no idea what it takes physically and mentally to survive undercover on the streets for years. And apparently, she has no real comprehension of the fact that Mace has just spent two years of her life literally fighting to be alive the next day. Danforth may be morally corrupt and verbally vicious, but Mace Perry is, to the core, feral. And a lioness always protects her cub.
As part of her probation, Mace has taken a job as a social services research assistant with a philanthropist, a job arranged by her sister. But even as she begins that job, Roy Kingman enters her life. Roy is a former criminal defense attorney turned corporate acquisitions lawyer who happens to find the body of a colleague stuffed into the office refrigerator. Chief Perry always visits the scene of any homicide in her city and she allows Mace to tag along. Unable to suppress her detective skills and seeing an opportunity to begin rebuilding her reputation, she aligns herself with Roy and the hunt begins.
With the plotline now established, Baldacci spends the next 400 pages using Mace Perry and Roy Kingman as protagonists in a complicated weave of murder, politics and counterterrorism. And it is a tale that is, at first, hard to get a credible grasp on. There seem to be too many coincidences, too many favors, too many close calls, and too many improbable escapes. Then the reality of the plotline sank in. Mace Perry is not and has never been a typical cop. A normal undercover agent would have been murdered, not elaborately framed. But she is not a regular guy; she is the sister of the Chief of Police and the daughter of a murdered chief US attorney. And the mad skills she displays throughout the story are not implausible contrivances at all. They are skills honed by years of use when she was not only a street rat but a prison inmate.
The writing is concise and there are no info dumps. However, Baldacci does not always identify one speaker from another during a conversation. This was manageable when only two people were speaking, even if I had to go back sometimes and re-track the speech by counting out “Mace-Roy-Mace-Roy,” etc. But when three or more people were in a scene, this lack of identification became irritating, as who says what was quite important to following the clues.
“True Blue” is a standalone novel. In several respects it does not end the way I wish it had, but it ends the way reality dictates. After all, this is a political thriller/police procedural, not some formulaic romantic suspense. However, just enough remains unfinished that Baldacci could, in the future, write a sequel should he so choose. And I would read it.
Cover Art by Goodreads