September 1996: "It took a split second, although to Secret Service
Agent Sean King it seemed like the longest split second ever." King
was protecting presidential candidate Clyde Ritter at a rally that
was supposed to be low key. When the crowd moved closer to the
guest of honor, King moved closer too and then he heard something
--- a bang that sounded like a dropped book. The crowd panicked,
the room exploded into chaos and Ritter was lying by King's feet,
shot right through the heart.
Following this tragic incident, King retired from the Secret
Service in disgrace. Over time he made a new life for himself. He
became a small town attorney who built a dream house on the banks
of a lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia far away from
politics, government and guns.
Eight years later, another election is on the calendar and
candidate John Bruno decides to take a side trip to pay his
respects to a dead friend. His protector, Secret Service Agent
Michelle Maxwell, is furious and frustrated, but she capitulates to
his demands in order to keep as close to their schedule as
possible. While Maxwell is counting the days until the election
when her fast track career could put her in the White House
guarding the president, she knows that sometimes one has to break
protocol. Or do they?
Once there, Bruno angrily refuses to listen to Maxwell, who insists
she will not leave his side. But his tantrum is easier to assuage
if Maxwell again defers to him, so she allows him to enter the
funeral parlor room alone. Then the unthinkable happens --- Bruno
vanishes --- and as had happened to King, Maxwell is turned into a
scapegoat and her career is over.
While King watches the news about the candidate's disappearance, he
understands exactly what will happen to Maxwell --- she is going to
be hung out to dry the same way he had. He then makes his way to
his "day job" and finds a corpse in his office.
A few days later, Maxwell begins to research the events that led to
King's downfall. She reads the material, studies the photographs
and listens to the videotape. She listens so closely that she hears
a sound --- a familiar noise that is eerily out of place. She knows
that something is very wrong with what she has seen and heard. She
feels an instinctive and overwhelming connection to King and
decides to seek him out.
King listens as she tells him what she has discovered: confirmation
of his legitimate distraction eight years before when a bullet
killed a candidate and his bodyguard. Neither of them can ignore
what they both now know --- especially since he is under
investigation for the murder of the man in his office. The two
ex-agents decide to work together and begin an odyssey that will
take them down the dark halls of Washington politics, bring them
into contact with the Federal Marshall Service, and push them
forward into a vast conspiracy that was set in motion long before
they came on the scene.
If you have a passion for intellectual thrillers whose architecture
is erected like a puzzle that is superbly limned with suspense and
the action is reminiscent of yesterday's news, SPLIT SECOND is an
absolute must-read. All of David Baldacci's previous eight books
have soared to the top of everyone's bestseller list and his oeuvre
speaks to his talent, imagination, prose and ability to tell a
story that is convincing, entertaining, fascinating and makes
readers feel that they are on a magical mystery tour. SPLIT SECOND
tells a very complex tale that will provoke readers to think about
current issues in government and offers interesting glimpses into
how the Secret Service works.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 23, 2011