David Baldacci’s latest novel, “The Escape”, is a return to his John Puller series about the criminal investigative officer in the military charged with hunting down fugitives and military criminals. Puller’s brother Robert, an officer in cyber command, was convicted of espionage and is a prisoner at one of America’s most secure military prisons. In the two prior books in this series, Robert aided Puller’s investigations, so it always seemed like Baldacci had a plan to use him in a bigger way.
This is that book, and it starts off with a bang as Robert escapes from the prison and Puller is sent to investigate. Paired up with a hot (is there any other kind) intelligence agent Veronica Knox . Puller is immediately suspicious about the break out, which involves multiple breaches of the super high security prison, and an unknown dead body in Robert’s cell. In the beginning the action is fast and furious, dead bodies pile up and the action propels forward. Baldacci switching from Puller’s investigation of his brother’s escape to Robert’s actions. Knox suggests they investigate why Robert ended up in prison, and there does seem to be some issue with the evidence — but why would anyone care now. Robert was in a secure facility. Puller suspected nothing. Why make a move against Robert? These questions will have to be answered.
And will Puller ultimately help his brother or turn him in? That is the biggest question of all, but we know immediately what that will mean.
And that is part of the problem with this book. Its obviousness.
Plus the middle of the book is a bit of a churn. Puller suspects, then doesn’t suspect , then suspects again that Knox is involved in some way with his brother’s disappearance. Too many potential conspirators end up dead for no reason. The conspiracy itself, once uncovered, seems so idiotic. Maybe after reading so many thrillers, one should not expect to find a really murderous crew of monsters, ala the ex Nazi’s in the “Boys from Brazil”, as its too many years later to use that evilness, so Baldacci is stuck making up his villains book after book. But these conspirators – really couldn’t Baldacci do a little better.
So we have an increasingly obvious book, with an obviously possible turncoat agent and once uncovered some clear villains. There are some double switches, some unexpected twists and turns, the end has a good bit of quick moves, and it wraps up very fast, but, I was left feeling robbed of my time because of the overly long middle of the book.
Will thriller fans like this book. Indubitably, but it felt too long to me, too obvious, too by the numbers.
It is a middle class thriller. Baldacci fans will buy it, but to those of us who like good new thrillers – spend your money elsewhere.