Activist and cemetery caretaker Oliver Stone has removed his tent across from the White House --- at the insistence of the Secret Service. However, his sign of protest proclaiming “I want the truth” remains. He still has a bone to pick with the United States government, a huge one. And it has a lot to do with what he did in the service of his country many years ago. Now, with a dawning horror, he starts to think that his past may have come back to haunt him.
Members of an elite force called Triple Six, a group of highly-skilled men that handled dangerous covert work, have been dying under suspicious circumstances. The timing of their deaths is too close to be coincidental. But Stone should be in no danger since the man he was back then, John Carr --- one of the Triple Six --- is dead and buried. He does realize, though, that leaks happen.
Annabelle Conroy, sporting an alias of her own, has a past that’s coming back to haunt her, too. One of the operatives she worked a con with on wealthy casino owner and all-around nasty guy Jerry Bagger has turned up dead. Knowing Bagger as well as she does, Annabelle is confident that the operative spilled his guts before dying in a slow and very painful way. Now she doesn’t know where to run. Bagger has tentacles everywhere. A hideaway on a remote island in the Pacific once sounded pretty safe. Now it sounds far too close. As a matter of fact, anywhere on this planet sounds far too close for Annabelle’s comfort.
Stone promises to help, calming Annabelle and instilling hope that she might come out of this in one piece after all. And the members of the Camel Club, an amiable collection of eccentric men loosely united for no particular purpose, gather around Annabelle, too.
Is Reuben Rhodes, the second oldest member of the club, displaying a romantic interest in her? Surely not; Annabelle is young enough to be his daughter. And she hates her father, so Reuben definitely wouldn't want to remind her of him. Mathematical genius Milton Farb can’t see any reason for Reuben to behave the way he is over a woman anyway. Then there’s diffident librarian Caleb Shaw, who worries about everything, complains about a lot and refuses no request Stone makes of him. And Stone’s request is that they all help Annabelle. Among the four of them, it should be a piece of cake to keep her alive.
But when another of the Triple Six squad members is attacked, Stone decides that maybe he isn’t the best bodyguard after all. In fact, it may be better for everyone involved if they put a lot of distance between themselves and Stone.
The assassin, a man named Harry Finn, is very talented --- and highly motivated. His is a personal vendetta. Finn’s family background, complicated as it is, explains a lot of why he is doing what he is doing. Of course, it’s not all black and white. There are gray spots, and in those gray spots is a lot of potential for plot reversals and thrilling escalations.
The relentless action in STONE COLD is sure to churn your stomach like a roller-coaster ride. It has at least as many twists and turns, and the outcome will leave you walking on shaky legs. David Baldacci’s latest political thriller is, indeed, a thriller. While STONE COLD is a fine stand-alone novel, readers of the Camel Club books before this one will turn the pages faster than ever --- and be left wondering where Oliver Stone and his cronies will turn up next.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 23, 2011