The villain is a classic spy caricature: cold-war CIA super-patriot Robert Thornhill wants to reclaim the glory days of the Central Intelligence Agency--when money flowed like the Mississippi during a flood, and the FBI watched helplessly from the sidelines. Working from his secret underground bunker, he blackmails Danny Buchanan, one of the great Washington lobbyists, to front an enormous bribery scheme that will force Congress to bend to the CIA's whims. But Thornhill's plan springs a leak: Buchanan's assistant Faith Lockhart discovers her boss's dirty dealings, and she intends to expose the whole mess to Thornhill's nemesis, the FBI. Thornhill's associates attempt to assassinate Faith, but their bullet kills her FBI escort instead. Faith finds herself on the run with Lee Adams, a fit-and-trim PI who had been shadowing her at the behest of Buchanan.
If all this sounds a bit confusing, it is at times. Baldacci works hard to keep the tension steadily rising, but it is sometimes difficult to remember why Faith and Lee can't just stop running and go for help. Nevertheless, they are very likable heroes, and Baldacci's depiction of the world of lobbyists and the internecine warfare of the FBI and CIA (complete with state-of-the-art spy gadgets and transmission-proof chambers) elevates the novel with details that can come only from careful research. --Patrick O'Kelley