“The Target” (Grand Central Publishing), by David Baldacci
In David Baldacci’s latest thriller, “The Target,” master assassins Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel, are supposedly given a clean slate by the government on the condition that they take an assignment that is — in reality — a suicide mission.
The president knows it could mean his impeachment if they are caught. Evan Tucker, the head of the CIA, doubts they can follow orders and would prefer to see them die before they take the assignment. He throws them into the Burner Box, a high-tech training facility that is notorious for breaking agents, both physically and mentally. Tucker tosses the absolute worst at them, and they soon discover that surviving the torture is the easy part of their mission.
While they are struggling to pass the ever-increasing brutal tests lobbed at them, a man in another part of the country awaits his fate on death row. However, he is dying from lung cancer, and he persuades his doctor to look up his daughter, who was placed in witness protection years earlier, so he can tell her goodbye.
He has an ulterior motive, and while his doctor contemplates contacting the authorities, in another part of the world, a North Korean assassin receives a dangerous mission with world-changing ramifications.
Robie and Reel are complex characters, and anything they do is a pleasure to follow. However, the adventures are extremely short and somewhat disjointed from the rest of the story, making it appear that the missions were short stories that Baldacci shoved in with the rest of the story and characters. That aside, Baldacci knows how to get readers to turn the pages, and he’s in top form here.