02 August 2012

Advanced suspense writing by Prof David Baldacci

Thriller | David Baldacci | Hell's Corner

The Camel Club is back. This is the fourth in the series featuring Oliver Stone and his motley collection of loyal friends.

So, by now we know that Oliver Stone is not a homeless protector of civil liberties pitching his protest tent in Lafayette Park across the White House where the President of the United States lives. Having done good deeds in the previous books and gotten the Prez to root for him, Stone is told to investigate the takeover of the Columbian drug cartels by the the Russian drug cartels, aka the Russian government. Ok, large pinch of salt and keep going.

But, as he walks home, a bomb explodes in the Park, where the British PM was supposed to be walking shortly before. Along with a lot of bullets flying. So he gets drafted as an Agent with one of the acronymic agencies that the USA seems to be stuffed with, with what seems to be the sole purpose of confusing anyone who wants to sort out who is who.

We find the Park is called Hell's Corner because several of these TLA* agencies have jurisdiction over parts of it, and nobody has any say over the whole of it. And all of them are investigating the bomb. Not to mention, MI6 from the UK, in the person of Stone's old friend who runs the agency, and a woman operative who is assigned to the mystery. And a bunch of others who turn up every fourth chapter to confuse you further.

Now, you remember I caviled about the third book in the series as not having enough heft to warrant the presence of Stone and the Camel Club. No such complaints here. If you want to learn how to write advanced high-speed suspense, sit at the feet of the master. This is a breathless book, and you might want to read it in electronic form where you get a few milliseconds' benefit in turning the pages faster.

Clues lead from one to the other, witnesses get killed minutes before revealing anything. Agencies hide things from each other, Stone gets kicked out. Ah, you knew that was coming, it's not a spoiler.

And yet, the core of the story is as high-tech a world-shaking plot as you can possibly hope for in anything short of science fiction. I just don't think the source of all the villainy as finally revealed could actually implement the high-tech device, nor do I think it would work as advertised, but hey, that's because it's been a week since I read the book and have had time to start unsuspending disbelief.

This book, if made into a movie, will confuse the hell's corner out of the viewers, mainly because it would run too fast for them to quite follow. The movie makers will have to dumb it down, at which point purists like me will turn up our noses and refuse to watch.

TL;DR: Baldacci retains his touch, and indeed, is getting better at thrillers.

Therefore, you will not be surprised to know that coming up next is his other series' book, First Family.

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