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Hour Game    by David Baldacci order for
Hour Game
by David Baldacci
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Remember ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell from Split Second? They're now PIs, in a kind of Odd Couple partnership in Wrightsburg, Virginia. Michelle's an untidy, impulsive 'supernova', who snacks on health foods on the run. Neat freak Sean is an introspective 'steady glacier' who enjoys rich meals and quality wines. They respect each other. Though sparks do fly from time to time, there's no romantic involvement ... yet.

It's Michelle who finds the first body while running in the Virginia hills around Wrightsburg. It's soon clear that this small community has a serial killing spree on its hands, and an overwhelmed Chief Todd Williams quickly deputizes Sean and Michelle. The murderer mimics past serial killers like Ted Bundy, but also poses victims to show a time on their watches ... 1, 2, 3 o'clock, and sends cryptograms to the newspapers. Is it just a psychotic game? At the same time, jurist-turned-practicing-attorney Harry Lee Carrick hires the investigative duo to take on the case of Junior Deaver, a handyman accused of burglary on the Battle estate. Patriarch Bobby recently suffered a massive stroke, and steely matriarch Remmy is upset and vengeful about the robbery. The aristocratic, wealthy Battle clan, 'a good old southern family', includes an artist son (and Civil War reenactor), Eddy, married to Dorothea, and a daughter, Savannah.

In between describing Michelle's and Sean's antics, the author shares the point of view of a sinister killer, who's frighteningly close to his pursuers. There are puzzles a-plenty. Who stole what from the Battles? Is there one killer or more? What, if any, are the motivations for murder? And is Michelle jealous of gorgeous deputy medical examiner Sylvia Diaz, to whom Sean once was close? As always in a Baldacci thriller, there's lots going on, few are who they seem, and innocents are rare. The action's hot and heavy with our heroes the hunted as much as the hunters - I love their banter, as in Michelle's line when Sean asks why she has her gun with her, but not her cell - 'What can I do with a phone: call him to death?' I enjoyed Hour Game very much, and look forward to more of this entertaining PI pair, whose temperaments and skills are complementary.

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