Reviewed by Ian Lipke
Travis Devine is identified in David Baldacci’s latest thriller as The 6:20 Man for the simple reason that each morning he catches the 6:20 train to work. The service is a popular one, not least for men who are treated each morning to the sight of a beautiful young woman in a bikini near a swimming pool. She is unaware of the display she is making with her body. Devine’s train, seemingly unaffected by the beauty on display, delivers him to join the world of high finance each morning. The discovery that the pool, girl and accompanying mansion are all associated with his boss whets Devine’s interest.
Travis Devine is a highly decorated war hero. But also, a mysterious one. Having won a host of combat medals, he has resigned his commission and left the Army. His men want to know why but he retains his silence. This is the first occasion when the plot appears laboured.
His daily commute to his new job takes him to a world in which he is unfamiliar, a world of spite, greed, envy and ambition, the world of investment bankers Cowl and Comely. It is a small leap to equate such a world with the financial abuse of the masses and the enrichment of the elite few.
Devine takes a particular interest in the affairs of Cowl and Comely when a girl he had slept with, Sarah Ewes, dies under mysterious circumstances. At this point we are introduced, in a cliched manner to General Emerson Campbell, an officer of the government who appears to have unlimited power. That there had to be a brawl between Devine and three large men in which Devine emerged victorious is par for the course. His toughness had to be demonstrated in preparation for Devine’s exploits later in the story.
Of course, there is always the question of who can be trusted and who is a worm. Baldacci handles this aspect of his story-making with the facile cleverness of the experienced writer. However, his hand is heavy. When most of the characters who might be villains have been eliminated the pool becomes small and those who could have supped with the Devil have chances equally likely.
Baldacci produces stories with apparent immaculate ease. His plots hang together, his descriptions are authentic. He restricts his narration to areas he knows well. He is no Graham Greene or John le Carré. Foreign parts are not for him. He keeps his concentration to those groups of people who can identify as American and have sympathy with Americans, together with others in the English-speaking world. He is content.
It is easy to excuse his success. He is one of the most popular writers in the world of literature today. One reaches that level of visibility only through hard work and clever marketing. I cannot speak about his commercial practices that feed his success as a writer, but I can vouch for his industry. He is still a relatively young man but the books carrying his name fill much of the shelves of the world’s libraries.
This latest tale (with its quaint title) is a useful addition to the collection, proudly presented by the ever-popular David Baldacci.
by David Baldacci
$34.99; 429 pp