“Thousands of miles away, Tyler Wingo’s phone buzzed.… And nothing would ever be the same…”
This is the sixth book in a series. This review contains no spoilers for previous books, aside from giving away the survival of two characters.
King and Maxwell, by David Baldacci
#6 in the King & Maxwell series
Grand Central Publishing, November 2013
388 pages (ebook)
It seems at first like a simple, tragic story. Tyler Wingo, a teenage boy, learns the awful news that his father, a soldier, was killed in action in Afghanistan. Then the extraordinary happens: Tyler receives a communication from his father… after his supposed death.
Tyler hires Sean and Michelle to solve the mystery surrounding his father. But their investigation quickly leads to deeper, more troubling questions. Could Tyler’s father really still be alive? What was his true mission? Could Tyler be the next target?
Sean and Michelle soon realize that they’ve stumbled on to something bigger and more treacherous than anyone could have imagined. And as their hunt for the truth leads them relentlessly to the highest levels of power and to uncovering the most clandestine of secrets, Sean and Michelle are determined to help and protect Tyler – though they may pay for it with their lives.
*** I requested this review copy through NetGalley. ***
The King & Maxwell series has always been one of my favorites of David Baldacci’s. In Split Second, two disgraced Secret Service agents team up to uncover a conspiracy, and the series goes from there. I read the first four in quick succession, and when The Sixth Man came out a couple years later, it was my favorite one yet. Unfortunately, this latest book didn’t leave me with the same feeling.
The main story, revolving around teenaged Tyler and the truth about his father, was a compelling one. And one of the secondary characters (I won’t mention who, but it’s someone returning from a previous book) was particularly enjoyable.
King and Maxwell had a lot of good stuff going for it, but in the end I just didn’t feel like it was moving the series forward. In the past books, there’s been some growth for Sean and Michelle, either as individuals or as a team (or both). This one felt static.
Not helping is the fact that Baldacci’s an offender of one of my pet peeves: “talking heads.” Many of his scenes are nothing but dialogue. No other action, no indication of any physical or internal reactions by the characters, not even any tags to remind you which character is speaking. Usually it’s clear enough – and ending every line with “he said” and “she said” would be moving a little too far in the opposite direction – but with nothing else going on but the dialogue, these sections are pretty easy to start skimming… and without the occasional reminder tag, especially for conversations between less familiar characters, sometimes I have to back up to make sure I’m following the conversation.
Again, this is something Baldacci does in all his books; I know that going in and I still read them, so maybe it’s unfair to criticize it. But when I’m already having mixed feelings about the book, these scenes certainly aren’t helping.
This summer, the King & Maxwell series was adapted for television. I never watched the show (and it’s since been cancelled), but I have to wonder if that accounts for some of the things I didn’t quite care for in this book. Something was just a little off about the characters and the way they related. The banter felt too deliberate, too obvious. Sean and Michelle seemed to me like shells of their former selves.
Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve read the other books, but the book didn’t quite fit my memories of the series… which, along with the title, leads me to that conclusion that this book was meant to be a bridge between the show and the books, to bring in a new audience.
Of course, that’s all just speculation. But the bottom line is that King and Maxwell, though entertaining enough, didn’t quite live up to my expectations, and isn’t the first book I’d recommend to someone new to Baldacci.
King and Maxwell is available in print, as well as for Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers.
Does this sound like something you’d pick up? Do you have any go-to authors who trigger your pet peeves, but you read them anyway?