Reviewed: November 22, 2002
By: David Baldacci
Publisher: Warner Books
505 Pages, $10.99
is anther of those novels I was lured into by having seen the movie. The Clint
Eastwood film has the same name and is driven by essentially the same themes,
though it is vastly simplified compared to the book and has a happy Hollywood
ending. Primarily, it enhances the role
of Luther Whitney, the character Clint plays, and allows him both to triumph
and survive. In the novel that is an either/or proposition.
is a former soldier and semi-retired thief. In his younger days he served some
prison time but he eventually got to be good enough that he never got caught
again. He’s been a bit of Robin Hood. His targets usually deserve it, but he
believes that charity begins at home.
the film we get the impression he decided to burgle Walter Sullivan's house for
the sheer challenge it presented.The book reveals more of his motives, which
are purer than that. His entry is textbook perfect. He would have been in and
out without leaving a clue if Mrs. Sullivan hadn't lied to her husband. She
wasn't really feeling too ill to accompany her older spouse to their island
retreat; she was entertaining a lover.
brought the man home while Luther was in the secret safe room behind the
one-way mirror, trapping the unwilling voyeur there for everything which was to
it looked like a mere orgy, but then it turned ugly. There was a fight. She got
hit. She stabbed her attacker with a letter opener and was about to do
something far more lethal when the Secret Service agents shot her.
drunken man who enjoyed getting rough with women was the President of the
United States, and he was making time with his mentor's wife. Fortunately for
him, his ambitious chief of staff was on hand with the agents, ready to
supervise the clean-up and make it look like a robbery attempt gone bad.
ends up scared witless and in possession of a blood stained letter opener, the
clue which could establish President Alan Richmond's presence in Christy Sullivan's bedroom. First he runs;
then he realizes he just can't leave it alone. He is too offended by Richmond's
smarmy grief. He has to go back to the States and begin to unravel the web of
is where the movie departed from the book in a big way. The president's office
has a lot of resources to mobilize. Luther is one man. We'd like to think he
could win, but we know it's not likely.
has an estranged daughter who has become a public prosecutor. She becomes
involved in the case when the investigating police officer begins to tie the
burglary (and by extension the murder) to Luther.
In the movie this character, played
engagingly by Ed Harris, is actually a blend of two people from the novel. One
is the cop and the other is a dissatisfied corporate lawyer who used to be Kate
Whitney's college lover, Jack. Jack had always liked Luther, and the older man
turns to him to mediate when he needs to communicate with his daughter. In
fact, when Luther is captured Jack takes him on as a client, much to the
disgust of his rich class-conscious fiancee.
movie, you see, became primarily an exercise in pushing a good man to the wall
and watching him fight back effectively, making sure everyone got what they
novel is about the challenges faced by these people. Luther tries to do the
right thing. Kate tries to overcome her anger at the father whose criminal
career deprived her of a parent. Jack tries to come to terms with the changes
in his upwardly mobile life, and why he is so unhappy. Detective Seth Frank
tries to figure out why the official story about this case smells so bad. Agent
Bill Burton tries to cope with the hell his life has become just because he
follows his boss's orders. How come
each step along the way makes him feel more and more like Macbeth and less like
the officer of the law he had once been?
enough, I don't find that I prefer one version of the tale over the other. They
are for different mediums and they accomplish different ends.
they become two quite different stories even if they do develop from the
same criminal act. Both are about
consequences, but the novel deals more deeply with internal consequences, while
the movie was more like vigilante version of Law and Order.
recommend either for a good evening's entertainment, though the book will take
you several evenings and the video will go better with popcorn.