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Tom Chaney: R723: A review of Absolute Power

Of Writers and Their Books. Book Review: Absolute Power by David Baldacci. First printed 13 August 2006 .
The next earlier Tom Chaney Of Writers and Their Books column,The Evil of Ignorance

By Tom Chaney

Absolutely Powerful

Luther Whitney, sixty-six and a career burglar, has cased a mega-million dollar mansion forty-five miles west of Washington, D. C., in the opulent Virginia suburbs.

Secure in the knowledge that the seventy-some year old multi-millionaire has flown to the Caribbean that morning with his twenty-something designer bride, he breaks the security code and enters the house with merely robbery on his mind.

Luther has knowledge of the strong room in the master bedroom. The door to the vault is a mirror operated with a television-like remote control. He is surprised to find an upholstered chair in the safe with a similar remote control. He gathers his loot including jewelry, cash, and negotiable securities worth in his estimate about 2,000,000.

As he prepares to leave with the swag, he hears a limousine approaching.

It contains the wife of the house who had pled sickness at the last minute to opt out of the Caribbean trip. Far from ill, she has postponed her trip to meet a lover at the mansion, which she thinks is deserted.

Luther has time to erase the evidence of his presence and to conceal himself in the strong room behind the mirror.

The wife, her lover, two guards, and another woman enter the bedroom and turn on the lights. Luther is surprised to learn that the mirror provides him with a clear view of the activity in the bed room.

The guards and the other woman wait in the hall while the drunken lover begins to abuse the mistress of the mansion. She defends herself with an antique letter opener, cutting the arm of her lover, and is about to stab him when the two secret service agents enter the room, realize that the President of the United States is about to be stabbed, and shoot the young woman twice, killing her instantly.

Luther watches as the Chief of Staff, Gloria Russell, has sex with the comatose President and the agents erase all evidence. As she leaves, the Chief of Staff drops the incriminating letter opener without realizing her loss.

Luther makes his escape down a rope ladder he has provided and flees with the swag and the letter opener.

Thus opens the fine novel Absolute Power written by David Baldacci. Baldacci has become one of my favorite writers of suspense novels. My summer reading has taken a turn of late toward rereading books that I have read before, and I welcome the urge to pick up a Baldacci. He is current, relevant, and exciting.

I was talking to friends in The Bookstore who told me that Absolute Power has been made into a movie. Speaking as one who has seen only two movies in the past twelve years -- "Brokeback Mountain" and "The DaVinci Code" -- I had not been aware of the fact of this one. No matter, the book is bound to be better -- at least the pleasure is more prolonged.

From the robbery and the murder we move to a fine cast of characters. Kate Whitney a criminal prosecuting attorney, daughter of Luther, is long estranged from her father. In fact, her career is a kind of penance for her father's occupation.

Bill Burton and Tim Collin are the killing secret service agents who proceed with the cover-up directed by Russell. Alan J. Richmond, President of the United States, actively aids the attempt to cover the murder, and in fact orchestrates the killing of the widower, Luther, and others.

Jack Graham, former public defender, former lover of Kate, and friend of and attorney for Luther, is on the fast track in a corporate law firm one of whose clients is the widower and owner of the mansion. Seth Frank is the persistent detective who helps Jack and others unravel the murder and subsequent cover-up.

Absolute Power is one of more than a dozen Baldacci page turners which combine intricate and exciting plots with complex character development. Such stories are the perfect antidote to these hot, humid, dog days of August. Some of us used to measure the length of canoe trips by the number of beers it took to get where we were going. Absolute Power is a least a three-gallon-of-lemonade book.

If you have seen the movie, I guess you know what happens. If not, suffice it to say that it takes many murders to bring down a President.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at

Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749. Phone (270) 786-3084. email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2011-08-14 12:51:55
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