A Review of David Baldacci’s Total Control

For a long time I ignored David Baldacci’s novels although the author produces stories in my favourite thriller genre. Maybe that was because the usual white background covers that appear on the paperback shelves in the UK didn’t appeal to me. Eventually I turned to one of his novels when I couldn’t find anything else that I wanted to read and became totally hooked on books written by this author.

David’s novels are complex tales involving FBI agents, US government, big business and all manner of criminals. So complex that I’m sure that I would lose the plot if I tried to write them, but even in their complexity I don’t lose the plot as a reader. I have plowed my way through most of David Baldacci’s current 17 novels and been gripped by the storylines of all of them.

Total Control is one of David’s early novels, first published at the beginning of 1997. The two main characters are lawyer Sydney Archer and veteran FBI agent Lee Sawyer. Sydney’s husband Jason works for the worlds leading technology conglomerate Triton Global and it is clear from the outset that he is involved in something that looks dodgy.

Sydney is the lawyer heading up a massive deal for her husbands company Triton Global, which is owned by the rich and nasty Nathan Gamble and his computer genius partner Quentin Rowe.

One morning Jason sets off to fly to LA, initially telling his wife that he is going there on business for his company. When he discovers that she is heading for a meeting with his bosses he changes his story and tells Sydney that he is actually going to Los Angeles for a job interview that would pay enough to enable Sydney to become the full time mother that she yearns for their 2 year old daughter Amy.

When Jason arrives at Dulles International airport he switches tickets in the toilets with a man who looks and dresses like him and flies to Seattle whilst the other man takes his place on the flight to LA. Part way through the flight the aeroplane goes down killing everybody, including the man who had taken Jason Archer’s place.

When FBI agent Lee Sawyer is called in to be the main investigator he quickly discovers that the plane was sabotaged. When proof is presented to Lee that Jason Archer was alive in Seattle after the plane crash Jason becomes the main suspect of the bombing, selling secrets of his company’s deal to a competitor and stealing millions of dollars from Triton Global.

Initially the FBI agent is unsure of whether or not Sydney is involved with her husband’s dodgy dealings. Sydney believing herself to be a widow holds back evidence because of the uncertainty about the man she loves, and from the fear that she will be accused of complicity and end up in jail instead of raising their daughter.

That is just a very small part of a massive plot with many twists and turns. The character of Sydney was built well; she is believable, likeable and very gutsy. I could feel an empathy with her sorrow at her believed loss, her fears for her daughter’s future and her need to find out for herself just what had happened.
Our initial encounter with Lee Sawyer is at the scene of the plane crash and his sorrow at the tragedy is apparent in every word written about it. His character is exactly what we would all like to see in law enforcement officers. Dogged, determined, honest, likeable and reliable but you wouldn’t want to oppose this no BS FBI agent.

I found Total Control to be a well-crafted thriller that held my attention right up until the end. As with all of David Baldacci’s novels there are lots of clues on the way but even if you think that you know the outcome he leaves little twists for the ending. I really enjoyed reading this book and unusual for me found myself on the edge of my seat during the last few chapters.

A great read that I highly recommend, Total Control is available in paperback, hard cover and audio cassette in book shops and on the Internet.

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