Book Talk: $1.3 billion is missing!
David Baldacci’s “King and Maxwell” (2013, 526 pages in paperback) is the last of his six-volume King-and-Maxwell series. This one, I believe, is the epitome of the Baldacci style. It has everything: A distraught boy who is picked up by King and Maxwell as he runs aimlessly down the road in a heavy storm; his father listed as KIA (killed in action) in Afghanistan who is actually alive; the theft of $1.3 billion in Euros, which weighs 4,800 pounds; and the entire alphabet (CIA, DIA, FBI, NSA, etc.) hot on the heels of the private detectives and the missing soldier.
Tyler, the distraught boy whose father is reported to be dead in Afghanistan, “hires” King and Maxwell to find out the truth about his father, whom he believes to be still alive and innocent. Later, the reader finds out why Tyler holds this opinion. His conviction about his father touches the heart of Michelle Maxwell, a former Secret Service agent who is not usually moved by sad stories, and she convinces Sean King to take the case.
Meanwhile Tyler’s father, a battle-tested professional, is trying to make his way out of Afghanistan to India, where he thinks he can find transportation back to the U.S.A. But he is being hunted by the U.S. government and the thieves. He’s also being stalked by King and Maxwell who run into a brick wall when they try to get information from any government sources as to what his mission was. He’s been officially branded as a coward, AWOL, a thief, and a threat to national security.
But while all sources of information are shut down for King and Maxwell, someone inside the government is leaking secrets to a political blogger. As King and Maxwell work their way through two-star generals, heads of agencies, and an entrenched federal bureaucracy, we see the intricacies and complexities of dealing with matters on a global scale, of balancing personal freedom with the security of entire nations, of fierce determination against impossible odds.
However, King and Maxwell have a special weapon at their disposal, a genius whom we met in a prior book in this series. And while he excels at data manipulation, Sean King demonstrates a level of computer illiteracy and technological incompetence that is matched only by yours truly. Watching King muddle through a world that has gone digital warms my heart because I no longer feel all alone.
Seriously, though, this book develops themes that are of critical importance in the world today: the true cost of war, the competition among intelligence agencies, the extent to which we depend on technology, the need for transparency in government, and the degree of control that has been programmed into our computers.
This book is my favorite of the six, but — as usual — I would encourage you to read the books in order: (1) Split Second, (2) Hour Game, (3) Simple Genius, (4) First Family, (5) The Sixth Man, and (6) King and Maxwell.
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.