THE TARGET, the third installment of David Baldacci’s Robie and Reel series, opens with a seemingly unrelated scene involving a convict named Earl Fontaine. Once large and fearsome, Fontaine now lies in the prison infirmary with death looming over him. Readers need to file away this bit for future reference.
We then jump into the latest storyline to feature U.S. government assassins Will Robie and Jessica Reel. They were once adversaries --- as seen in the prior book in the series, THE HIT --- but reconciled their differences and realize they need each other. When the President of the United States needs a deadly and highly top-secret mission accomplished, he calls on them. Not to mention, this mission involves killing another world leader.
The government does not completely trust Robie and Reel, and the feeling is quite mutual. Before they bring them into the fold for the mission at hand, they must be re-vetted. This means they have to endure intense physical and mental tests at a site referred to as the Burner Box. If they should survive their time there, they then will be put in front of the POTUS himself to outline their mission.
"David Baldacci deftly plots THE TARGET so that readers can never get a firm grasp on what is going to happen next. This unsettling theme makes for an interesting thriller that is quite different from the straightforward, shoot-em-up action that I expected."
Of course, they survive their tests and are given their target. He is General Pak Chin-Hae, Vice Marshall of the North Korean army's general staff. The government already has a replacement in mind for Chin-Hae once he is eliminated --- one who will be more amenable to U.S. interests. If this mission were to be exposed to the rest of the country --- or globe --- it would definitely result in the impeachment of the current POTUS.
There is one main problem standing in their way, and that is in the form of a deadly female assassin named Chung-Cha. When she was young, Chung-Cha and her family had been prisoners at a North Korean labor camp. She was the only survivor. To show her complete allegiance to the North Korean government, she was forced to kill her entire family. She is now all grown up and extremely dangerous. Her new mission involves taking out key U.S. government figures like the Vice President and his family. Robie and Reel stand at cross-purposes and put themselves directly in Chung-Cha's crosshairs.
The plot is almost completely derailed by an unexpected turn of events. Before they are able to head overseas for their mission, Robie and Reel must deal with a crisis close to home. Specifically, Reel ends up being revealed as the daughter of the terminally ill prisoner who opened the novel --- Earl Fontaine. Fontaine did bad things to Reel and killed her mother, forcing her to enter WITSEC at an early age. Even worse, one of her father's nefarious associates raped her when she was 17. She had a daughter out of wedlock, the product of that violent sexual assault. Reel's father and the bad man who accosted her years ago are back in the picture, and a kidnapping scheme involving Reel and her daughter nearly thwarts all of the plans she and Robie were working on.
Once things get back on track, the novel turns directions, and the enemies from within the U.S. may pose a bigger threat to Robie and Reel than those they plan to face in North Korea. David Baldacci deftly plots THE TARGET so that readers can never get a firm grasp on what is going to happen next. This unsettling theme makes for an interesting thriller that is quite different from the straightforward, shoot-em-up action that I expected. Baldacci and his wife run a charity organization called the Wish You Well Foundation, which spreads literacy throughout the country. With his writing more prolific than ever, Baldacci is more than doing his part to support these efforts.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 24, 2014