Monday, June 30, 2014

“The Target” by David Baldacci (Macmillan)

Baldacci-WR3-TargetUKThe third Will Robie thriller sets him and Jessica Reel on a collision courts with the Hermit Kingdom…

The President knows it’s a perilous, high-risk assignment. If he gives the order, he has the opportunity to take down a global menace, once and for all. If the mission fails, he would face certain impeachment, and the threats against the nation would multiply. So the president turns to the one team that can pull off the impossible: Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel.

Together, Robie and Reel’s talents as assassins are unmatched. But there are some in power who don’t trust the pair. They doubt their willingness to follow orders. And they will do anything to see that the two assassins succeed, but that they do not survive.

As they prepare for their mission, Reel faces a personal crisis that could well lead old enemies right to her doorstep, resurrecting the ghosts of her earlier life and bringing stark danger to all those close to her. And all the while, Robie and Reel are stalked by a new adversary: an unknown and unlikely assassin, a woman who has trained her entire life to kill, and who has her own list of targets – a list that includes Will Robie and Jessica Reel.

The Target is another great addition to this relatively-new series from Baldacci. Taking the popular central character of government assassin, the author has managed to forge a somewhat original path. The novel is gripping, excellently-paced, and well-researched. As has become the norm with Baldacci’s novels, I really enjoyed reading this.

Over the course of three novels and a short story, Will Robie has developed and adjusted to the new influences on his life – from Julie Getty, the young orphan he met in The Innocent, to Jessica Reel the once-rogue (and still of questionable loyalty) fellow assassin he confronted in The Hit.

In The Target, Baldacci pitches Robie and Reel against an opponent who could very well be their only equal. At least, no doubt, until the next novel – I have no problem with this type of gradual threat escalation in thriller novels, and especially the way Baldacci does it, as he has thus-far been able to avoid ridiculous exaggeration. The primary antagonist is a North Korean assassin, whose connection to Robie and Reel takes some time to develop. Baldacci has clearly researched North Korea quite a bit, and as a result he presents a realistic, frightening picture of the nation – in particular, the portrayal of the brutal life in the prison and reeducation camps, the national paranoia regarding foreigners, and the nationalistic propaganda that permeates everyday life.

Baldacci-WR3-TargetUSWhile trying to predict the machinations of the Hermit Kingdom, the personal and professional relationship between Robie and Reel continues to develop. They are not an item, though it’s clear that they have feelings for each other. While addressing something from Reel’s past – the “side-plot” for the novel – they grow closer, and their dynamic evolves further. Speaking of the side-plot, The Target has three distinct acts, and it’s the first time I’ve noticed them so clearly: first, there is the instigating events relating to North Korea. Second is the unwelcome reminder and intruder from Reel’s past (a side-story that is very well concluded and written). And third, a return to issues with North Korea.

One aside I thought I’d mention, as it jumped out at me: I really like the fact that the core group of characters is predominantly composed of women. Except for Robie, of course, there’s Jessica Reel, Julie Getty, Deputy Director Amanda Marks, and also Detective Vance (a character who was, admittedly, somewhat peripheral in The Target). Not only that, but here we also have Yie Chung-Cha, the North Korean assassin. Yie’s story-arc was somewhat predictable, but Baldacci nevertheless kept me guessing right up until the end as to how it would unfold.

Overall, then, this was a satisfying third novel in the series. It is very well-written, of course, and gripping from the beginning. It is not over-blown or Bruckheimer-esque, as can be some international thrillers. His characters are realistic, well-rounded and sympathetic. Really, there’s basically nothing about this series I don’t like. If you’ve enjoyed the previous Robie stories, then this should certainly appeal and entertain.

If you’re new to Baldacci’s work, I’d recommend starting with The Innocent. I really hope there will be more novels featuring these characters. Highly recommended.


The Target is published in the UK by Macmillan, and in the US by Grand Central.

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