The Target

by David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group, © 2014
ISBN 978-1-4555-2123-4
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages, $10.00

When faced with the opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to take down a global threat—U.S. President Cassion weighs the risks and reluctantly gives the order. The mission must succeed. Failure means certain retaliation, probable impeachment, and possible world war. Only five people know the deal: the President, the CIA director, the national security advisor, and the CIA’s two top agents, WILL ROBIE and JESSICA REEL. Operation commencement sets inexorable wheels in motion for everyone involved, especially when all does not go as planned.

On the other side of the world, North Korea plots against a traitor for scheming with the evil West, and imprisons his family in a notorious camp from which few ever escape. But “impossible” isn’t in the U.S. vocabulary, and when Cassion sends Robie and Reel to liberate the prisoners, North Korea must retaliate to save face. In the aftermath, their best agent conspires with well-placed contacts in the U.S. This time, the stakes are higher than ever, and none of them expect to come out of it alive.

David Baldacci spins a good thriller. Even with numerous characters, the reader knows they’ll all tie together somehow. Part of the fun in this kind of read is trying to figure out the connections before they’re made clear. It’s a given that intrigue and personal drama each play their own role, almost becoming characters in their own right. When a reader picks up a thriller, they have certain expectations of the plot and every character. Robie and Reel were predictable good guys. I knew what they’d do in almost every scene, though they did surprise me from time to time. On the other hand, I admit to being most captivated by the antagonist, CHUNG-CHA, and found myself trying to see the world through her eyes, impossible though that would be.

I’m not certain if it’s a concrete part of his style, or whether this novel was different, but The Target is mostly narrated from an almost omnicscient perspective. Between that and his prominent use of passive verbs, I found it a little more difficult to connect with the characters. Of course, as an up-and-coming writer, this got my attention, since books and classes on the craft of writing always say this is unwise. Now I see why. Still, Baldacci’s long list of titles, many of which became best sellers, speaks to his storytelling ability. Clearly, many love his novels. This was my first Baldacci experience, so my comments here are based on a narrow range of his work, and on what my teachers say. (Of course, they also say once you’re a bestselling author, you can break all the “rules” you want.)

That small detail aside, I enjoyed this book enough that I’ll likely read other Baldacci novels. If you’re looking for an entertaining read, The Target might be for you.