Split Second
David Baldacci
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Split Second
David Baldacci
Warner Books
512 pages
September 2004
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read Rashmi Srinivas' take on Split Second.

In this refreshing return to the source of David Baldacci's early success in the mystery/suspense genre, Split Second is a welcome addition to his body of work. Baldacci recently made a detour into the more emotional territory of the novel, but his real strength lies in the ability to structure a concise plot, using the incisive logic necessary for such a notable effort as Absolute Power.

In 1996, while on protective detail of presidential candidate Clyde Ritter, Secret Service agent Sean King fails to stop an attempt on Ritter's life during a planned campaign stop. Wounded himself, King kills the assassin, but his career in the Secret Service is in tatters after such a fiasco. For one split second, King's attention was captured by something other than his assigned civilian, and that critical second led to questions and Sean's denouement as an effective agent.

Eight years later, another presidential candidate, this one under the protection of Michelle Maxwell, is kidnapped while under her surveillance. Agent Maxwell is determined to find John Bruno before he's killed, and she is interested in the similarities between her scenario and that of former agent King's.

This quirk in this latest mystery is a subplot that surfaces when the two Secret Service agents combine their talents to solve Ritter's death and Bruno's disappearance. There is a particular mastermind behind both the assassination and the disappearance, and Agent Sean King finds a willing co-conspirator in Agent Michelle Maxwell.

Once they join forces and compare notes, Sean and Michelle are even more convinced that their cases are connected. Their combined resources offer a better chance at some solution, although King can no longer use his Secret Service affiliations for information. However, he does contact ex-agent Joan Dillinger, who's found success in the private sector. King and Dillinger have a romantic past, one that ended with Ritter's assassination, but Dillinger is willing to help with Sean and Michelle's investigation, for a price.

Bit by bit the plot is uncovered, until the agents find themselves confronted by an unexpected and dangerous adversary. Of course the agents triumph in the end, but Baldacci keeps the reader guessing with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. This author is well on his way to reviving those deductive skills that made him such a popular mystery writer.

© 2003 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book

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