Bombs and Basketballs: Cheers for David Baldacci Again!
By Margaret Curtis, PhD
For the details of international intrigue—and security nightmares—who compares with David Baldacci? This time he conjures a plot wrapped up in a basketball planted under a tree. If readers start to question what basketballs have to do with landscaping, they’re right on mission with the hero of Hell’s Corner, who happens to work the most famous real estate in the world.
Baldacci’s audience may never see DC the same way again. The simplest tasks become mysterious when they happen in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. The author’s hero comes to his assignment with a long history of conflict between patriotism and loyalty. On his mission to clear his name, he signs on for one last chance to prove his skills haven’t faltered.
The task of Olive Stone, then, is to start out like Prince Hamlet—in the middle of everything—and come out like King Hamlet, minus the dead bodies, including his own. Is he, or is he not, the lone man who can solve a really stupid puzzle? When an explosion occurs with no reasonable objective, he becomes intrigued. When basketballs hide bombs, it’s no time for athletics.
Or is it? Nothing can happen in Lafayette Park, aka Hell’s Corner, without international ramifications. His new alliances involve a British agent who also attempts to avert an unidentified tragedy—when more than basketballs and trees go flying in hell. Stone enlists the assistance, too, of former colleagues whose new loyalties may always remain uncertain.
The test at every turn for Baldacci’s hero remains: As time unrolls, do we remain the people we recognize in the mirror or across the street? When landscapers turn up, why do they have basketballs up their sleeve or on their brain? Who in his right mind would hide a bomb in a basketball, anyway? The history of Hell’s Corner comes down to one man and a clump of earth.
Along the way, Baldacci teaches his readers more than they ever guessed about American real estate. Although the US capital seems etched in stone, its stability can change with a single blast. “The place had changed dramatically,” Baldacci writes in Chapter 3, “since Stone first planted his sign in the ground, the one that read I Want TheTruth.”
His other novels include Absolute Power, Total Control, The Simple Truth and The Whole Truth. So his quest continues, and his major theme remains consistent. Readers of those novels will realize, however, that, for Baldacci, the truth is rarely simple, and perception management means that the simplest way to destroy the truth is to bury it under tons of garbage.