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Review: ‘The Sixth Man’ by David Baldacci

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By David Baldacci

Grand Central, 416 pages, $27.99

Updated: June 9, 2011 12:24AM

Author David Baldacci presents the deranged, jealous and greedy side of the American intelligence gathering community in his new novel The Sixth Man (Grand Central, $27.99).

Secret Service agents turned private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are forced to pry the lids off these secretive organizations to solve a homicide.

A friend, an old attorney, is killed in rural Maine while defending an accused serial murderer — and the duo pledge to see the case through as bodies pile up in the wake of forces unknown attempting to thwart their investigation.

The pair stumble onto something big — the fight over a new freakishly fast information processor that fundamentally changes the face of national security — to the dismay of longtime intelligence power brokers.

Oh yeah, and add a sensitive “Rain Man”-on-steroids type savant caught in the middle.

That’s the gist.

Mercenaries, patriots and profiteers mix with old-fashion gumshoeing and some cool spy stuff to provide enough intrigue and action to flip the last page. However, a rash of cliched one-upmanship dialogue between government agents is enough to make you shake your head.

Michelle Maxwell is memorable for her ability to drop multiple men in physical combat in mere seconds. The carnage is reminiscent of a Steven Seagal flick. She’s an “estrogen-filled tornado who can shoot the pants off most of the premier snipers in the military.”

Sean King, an attorney, favors a more cautious approach.

Both awkwardly suppress a romantic relationship with bad humor and deference to the job at hand. Cat and mouse games and a few unexpected revelations provide an entertaining read. And the challenge of getting competing intelligence agencies to work together is a relevant topic. After reading the Baldacci dramatization, the little that is known on the subject becomes more striking.

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