I seldom read two books by the same author in quick succession. This time there has been an exception as after “The Hit” by David Baldacci, a couple of weeks later, I read his “The Escape.” This features the Military CID Investigator John Puller. I was coming across this character for the first time but I understand he has featured in two other books by Baldacci in the past. The book starts with a bang, as all thrillers should. In a first time ever event, a notorious captive escapes from the ultra high security United States Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth. The man who escaped did not merely vanish into thin air but left behind a body of someone whom nobody had seen before at that prison. What makes the plot more intriguing is that the escaped prisoner was a brilliant man, an expert in nuclear technology and cyber security who had been a Major in the United States Air Force until his conviction. He happens to be none other than John Puller’s elder brother, Robert.John is tasked with investigating the escape and finding the missing prisoner. The logic of those who assigned him the task is that no one knows his brother as well as John does. In the course of the investigation, John reluctantly accepts the assistance of Veronica Knox, of INSCOM, the United States Army’s Intelligence and Security Command. The relationship between John and Veronica, they call each other, “Knox” and “Puller” by the way, is complex. John Puller does not trust others easily. Knox behaves in ways which make him doubt her integrity. She finds him attractive and he in turn is confused by her role in the investigation. Baldacci handles this part of the plot in an impeccable manner. Till the end you aren’t quite certain about the mysterious Ms. Knox.
In the meanwhile, Robert Puller does his best to find out who was responsible for having him framed in the case which saw him imprisoned with so much ignominy. The brothers meet up when Robert saves John’s life when he is almost killed by those who want to stop him from investigating the case. The Puller brothers exchange notes and find that the needle of suspicion points to Susan Reynolds, one of Robert’s former colleagues, who was jealous of his rapid progress in STRATCOM, the secret defence unit in which they were employed.
There are a plethora of security agencies in the United States. They have their own turf wars and do not take kindly to investigators digging into past events in their territory. This book covers some of this aspect as the Pullers and Knox desperately try to figure out who is behind a series of murders that take place, with all the victims being highly placed Government officials in one or the other of these agencies.
As always there is a definite time frame in which the masterminds must be caught. John Puller gathers enough evidence to suggest that a calamity will take place in the Pentagon, no less, if they do not catch Susan Reynolds and her associates in crime. To add to the suspense, events propel Puller, at one point, to make a difficult choice of assuming whether Knox is working for or against him.
Like every good thriller, this one too is fast paced especially towards the end. A good read and recommended.