Stone Cold
David Baldacci
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Buy *Stone Cold* by David Baldaccionline

Stone Cold
David Baldacci
544 pages
August 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Baldacci’s latest adventure of mayhem and murder is based in Washington, DC, where the power players continue to wreak havoc on a government obsessed with Homeland Security and all things related to terror.

The so-called Camel Club, a group of former CIA operatives and soldiers trained in Special Forces, gathers under the direction of Oliver Stone, an unassuming man who is careful to avoid standing out in a crowd. The Camel Club’s implied mission is too keep an eye on the powers that be, particularly the former head of Intelligence, Carter Gray, a man who still wields considerable power behind the scenes.

When an attempt is made on his life, Carter goes underground, the world believing him dead. Having met with Gray the night of the attack, Stone assumes the same, but when an assassin appears on the scene, Oliver quickly realizes that other forces are at work. In fact, a spate of recent killings are particularly disturbing; the deaths point the finger directly at Stone’s past activities as a member of the Triple Sixes, an elite killing squad who reported to Gray, and a well-heeled senator currently planning a run for the White House.

Out of the blue, Annabelle Conroy, an honorable member of the Camel Club and a con artist with superior skills, shows up at Stone’s cottage. Annabelle requests his help with a situation, the hot pursuit of one Jerry Bagger, who she has swindled out of a fortune. Stone is happy to help until the assassinations indicate that he may be a target, and with him his friends, including Annabelle.

Just for fun, Baldacci throws in another wild card: Harry Finn, a man systematically murdering all on his list, a vendetta that harkens back to The Cold War and America’s facile use of spies to advance the government’s agenda. Employed by DHS to test the security of installations, both military and public, Finn uses his expertise and multiple identities to accomplish much a more personal goal.

Villains, assassination teams, killers, crooks and patriotic ex-soldiers are tossed about in a violent stew. Then Carter Gray squeezes the virtual trigger, annihilating reputations, intended victims turned from heroes to traitors with a few well-chosen words. Meanwhile, Jerry Bagger, not to be forgotten, is convinced he has finally captured his prize.

Wrapped in obfuscation and clever lies, ancient history resurfaces, actions that must be kept from the public no matter how many people die in the bloody cover-up as these diverse characters come together in a dramatic denouement, a classic shootout that leaves few standing and Carter Gray desperate to control a rapidly escalating situation.

Tossing out a few acerbic remarks on the corruption of the Beltway and the hubris of politicians, Baldacci makes it all work, the few tackling the man who would control intelligence and an evil would-be-president, patriots determined to return the government to the people.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2007

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