Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Book Review: Hell's Corner by David Baldacci

Is Hell's Corner to be the last adventure of the members of the Camel Club as the back cover suggests? If it is, we’ll have to say “well done” to David Baldacci for withdrawing his likeable characters at the top of their game. To tell you the truth though I believe that Oliver Stone, who’s the driving force behind this series of novels, still has a lot to give, but I guess my opinion doesn’t really matter.
     As you’d expect from a novel by this author it is action-packed. It begins somewhat slowly, at a leisurely pace, but the narration starts picking up momentum after the first hundred pages, and from that point on it just keeps getting stronger. It soon explodes into a racy thriller, full of twists and turns, with the usual conspiracy theories adding to the mix.
     First things first though. It all begins when Stone receives an invitation to visit the White House and meet with the president; an invitation that’s even for him impossible to refuse. The president asks the veteran, yet retired, agent to serve his country for the very last time, by taking charge of a high-risk, covert mission. His job is to infiltrate and bring down a Russian cartel, that’s supposedly taken over the illegal drugs trade on the American continent. But his mission, even before it begins, is about to change dramatically. A bomb is detonated at a park in front of the White House and Stone accidentally finds himself at the scene of the crime. The intended target was most likely the British prime minister who was just on his way out of the White House, after a meeting with the president. Under the circumstances they have no choice but to ask Stone to work on the case, along with an attractive female MI6 agent, Mary Chapman, and a contact with the FBI.
     Before too long though Stone comes to realize that this case will not be an easy one to crack. For every answer he and his co-workers get, a few new questions arise and, as it looks, they are not about to get an easy ride trying to figure things out. There are too many “unknowns”. For starters: How did the bomber or bombers managed to fetch the explosive device into the well guarded park, without setting off any alarms, or even provoking a reaction by the bomb squat’s trained dogs? And then questions have to be asked about the people; the strangers who were hanging around there that night. Who was the armed man who bumped onto Stone? What was the woman sitting on a bench and talking on the phone really up to before all that happened? Who was the man that was standing in front of a statue studying its inscription in the middle of the night? What about the fat guy? Did he have anything to do with the explosion or was he simply an innocent bystander and its only victim?
     The more they investigate the case, the more the mystery deepens. Their bosses seem to be hiding a lot of crucial evidence from them, while someone is trying now and again to kill Stone. And as time goes by more bodies start piling up. Stone, realizing that he’s come to a dead end, once again decides to ask for help from his friends at the Camel Club. But even then things don’t seem to quite work out for them, since the people behind the attack always seem to be a step ahead. The investigators receive just bits and pieces of information and now it’s up to the ageing agent to connect the dots and find the answer to the riddle; an answer which he doesn’t quite expect, since his opponent is a master manipulator; someone who seems to know him better that he knows his self.
     This is a well-crafted thriller, as good as you’ve come to expect from a writer of David Baldacci’s caliber.

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