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The Sixth Man by David Baldacci
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May 21, 12

By David Baldacci. King-Maxwell #5. Grade: A
The much-awaited follow up novel to First Family in the King-Maxwell Series is everything it promised to be.
Edgar Roy–an alleged serial killer held in a secure, fortress-like Federal Supermax facility–is awaiting trial. He faces almost certain conviction. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are called in by Roy’s attorney, Sean’s old friend and mentor Ted Bergin, to help work the case. But their investigation is derailed before it begins–en route to their first meeting with Bergin, Sean and Michelle find him murdered.
It is now up to them to ask the questions no one seems to want answered: Is Roy a killer? Who murdered Bergin? With help from some surprising allies, they continue to pursue the case. But the more they dig into Roy’s past, the more they encounter obstacles, half-truths, dead-ends, false friends, and escalating threats from every direction. Their persistence puts them on a collision course with the highest levels of the government and the darkest corners of power. In a terrifying confrontation that will push Sean and Michelle to their limits, the duo may be permanently parted.

For the readers who are new to this series, let me give you some background: Sean and Michelle previously worked for the Secret Service (in addition, Sean is was also a practicing attorney) before they began to work for themselves as private detectives. They are called in on a particularly thorny case by an old friend of Sean’s to do some deep digging on a case for a man who is in a high security federal prison for the criminally insane, not speaking to or looking at anyone. Did he kill six men and bury them on his farm? The old friend gets shot and Sean and Michelle feel compelled to solve his murder while still investigating the case of the man in the prison.
In this well paced thriller that tries to prove the eidetic (someone who has photographic memory) prisoner’s innocence against seemingly insurmountable odds, Peter Bunting leads a group and has a special program where he attempts to find a man of rare intelligence rated a six. This person could analyze intelligence from all over the world and be able to make predictions and sell that information to the government.
Baldacci provided some insights into the security industry. My guess is that it is somewhat cutthroat given that it is subsidized by politicians and populated by government employees. Of course, this intensifies the subject matter. I liked Baldacci’s examples of how one can infer conclusions stemming from very disparate pieces of data. That added greatly to the story realism.
The ideas in this book about the workings of government, and the need for a “super thinker” to make decisions for our country were fascinating to me, as well as alarming. The more I read and study, the more alarmed I feel for the average American. Their government has grown too unwieldy to be manageable. If we had completely honest, trustworthy candidates for office, then we would be fine, but this isn’t a perfect world, and we don’t have those requirements filled. I found the example of dedicated authorities, like the small-town policeman, and the honest FBI men, to be inspiring.
Don’t let all the negative reviews scare you off. And do not let them give you the whole story and the ending. Let’s face it. This is entertainment not high art. It’s not evensuper suspense and probably would not make a good film.: flat characters, overworked plot, improbable events and a bit too much anti government paranoia. But that is not to say it cannot keep one reasonably content in a chair by the fire with a nice glass of port, a cigar and a faithful dog.
My only complaint is the lack of development in Sean and Maxwell’s relationship. The way First Family, I was inexplicably eager for the next one, wondering how they’d deal with each other. Sadly, the author has made the thriller his main focus, which sometimes made me feel that even my favourite protagonists were one-dimensional.

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