The Sixth Man – David Baldacci

Setting: Maine, USA and elsewhere in the States. [Yes, there really is a lot of evil, criminal activity in the USA.]

Story: Edgar Roy is caught at his farm with a shovel in his hand, and a partly buried body. There are five other bodies in his barn. Straight to custody, which for the withdrawn, unco-operative and uncommunicative Roy, is a special lunatic asylum that seems to be a modern day version of a maximum security prison with knobs on. His lawyer, Ted Bergin, hires the private investigator team of Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. The investigators journey up to see their client and the killings and action and suspense start up.

Good Stuff: Action, action, action. The plot is so complex with agents, double agents, triple agents, relatives, blood relatives, half-blood relatives, partners, enemies, friends, watchers, and riff-raff mixed up like grains of rice in a biryani dish, smothered in a hot curry sauce of twists, you cannot fail to be impressed. The unmasking of the final bad apple is an especially good episode in the book, and was one moment where I thought there was some actual risk of a fatality for a hero. This is a solid page turner, though not the author’s best.

Not So Good Stuff: In the bid to excite the audience, there seems to be a need to push the envelope further and further in terms of conspiracy plotting, backstabbing, and the lengths to which bad people will go to further their evil goals. (See also Zero Day by the same author.) In my view, the author goes too far here. King and Maxwell are repeat characters who may have had their best days before now. Their super hero like achievements (another Baldacci trademark?) seem too easy. Overall, there’s a feeling that whenever the goodies need something – trained killer, super duper technology, traitor in the enemy camp – you know they will have no difficulty in acquiring it. Failure? No way.

Score: 7/10