Mysterious Shaw is back. Is he a hitman? a covert operator? Does he work for the government, either officially or unofficially? Who knows, but David Baldacci spins a second tale around this guy and adds a female counterpart, a young Brit named Reggie. Both are after the same man but for different reasons. Shaw knows him as Evan Waller, a ruthless businessman who traffics young women and who recently has gotten into the nuclear arms game. Reggie knows him as Fedir Kuchin, a former KGB member who carried out thousands of horrible deaths. Reggie's mission is to kill him; Shaw only wants to capture him and make him spill the beans on the terrorists who want the weapons he can supply. Waller/Kuchin is planning a vacation to Provence, where Shaw and Reggie intend to pounce. Who will get to him first?
None of Baldacci's books can be described as deep, but they usually involve a plot-heavy, twisty tale, good for a wild adventure. This one is no exception, although the ride screeches to a near-halt about halfway through. There's a lot of buildup to Reggie's planned execution of her quarry and Baldacci spells out details of Shaw's orders, but things go terribly wrong. The rest of the book is about Shaw and Reggie sizing each other up and deciding whether they can trust one another in order to hunt down Waller/Kuchin together. Shaw also agonizes over his feelings for his dead lover Anna and for Katie James, who was in the previous book and who makes an appearance here, and he doesn't seem like his usual kick-ass self. Reggie goes from being a confident Nazi hunter to an insecure hitman (hitwoman?), and the result of all this angst leads to a weak second half of the book.
This isn't a bad book by any means. It's still good for a plane ride or a week at the beach. It reads like Baldacci was trying to stretch himself, to add a twist that no one would ever expect. The problem is, suspense fiction generally has a huge climax right near the end of the book, which keeps the reader turning pages like mad to find out what happens and how the good guys take down the bad guys. The climax of this book is in the middle, leaving a lot of pages left without the same level of buildup. Reggie has an interesting back story and Shaw has unresolved feelings for a former flame, so those side details will keep you going if you're into them. There's also a graphic torture scene, which may or may not turn you off depending on your comfort level with violence (but don't let that stop you from picking up the book; just skip those pages and get back to the story). If you're a big Baldacci fan and read all of his books, then you'll probably like this one. However, don't feel bad if you decide to forgo it.