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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 1999
This is the second David Baldacci book I have read-and it won't be the last. The plot seems improbable at first, but you quickly get caught up in the suspense. Jack Graham is an appealing hero, but his romantic interest, Kate Whitney, never quite seems believable. The other characters, notably Gloria Russell and Bill Burton, add nicely to the spine-tingling anticipation of wanting to know what happens next. I really enjoyed this book, to the point I will buy my own copy when I can (the one I read was from the library). David Baldacci has a new fan! One criticism, albeit minor: I would recommend that Mr. Baldacci study the work of Robert Ludlum to see how to improve his characterizations and narrative detail. Regardless, I intend to read everything he writes from now on. I am thrilled to encounter such a major new talent!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon February 20, 2013
David Baldacci's first novel is a strong opener, enough like John Grisham's work to satisfy Grisham fans but more unique than a simple knock-off. Luther Whitney is a crime story cliché: the career burglar who steals things "only from those who can afford to lose them." He avoids violence toward himself and others. As Luther burgles a Virginia mansion, he demonstrates an expected facility with electronic surveillance systems, locks and assorted tools and techniques of his trade. But it all goes wrong.

Fleeing from unexpected visitors, Luther hides in a room-sized vault with a one-way mirror view of the master bedroom. There he watches Christie Sullivan begin an adulterous affair with the philandering President of the United States, Alan Richmond. Their night goes badly, too. Rough sex turns to anger, then violence. He hits her; she slaps him, he beats and tries to strangle her. When Christie defends herself with a letter opener, Richmond screams. His Secret Service detail rushes in and shoot her dead. Now everyone's evening is ruined.

The rest of the story plays out as the President, his Chief of Staff Gloria Russell, and his two trusted Secret Service agents, Bill Burton and Tim Collin, try to cover up their involvement. Luther escapes immediate detection, but his burglary provides a convenient trail for the investigation. Along the way we meet a well-developed cast of characters. Luther's daughter Kate has been estranged from him for years, but returns to his life in the middle of its current crisis. Jack Graham, who Kate once intended to marry, turns from his lucrative law practices and ludicrous, high maintenance fiancé to help his lost love and her father. Seth Frank is a hard-driven Virginia homicide detective who drill's for the truth through layers of loyalty and deception. And Walter Sullivan, Christie's aging, billionaire husband, brings his resources into play in the hunt for his wife's murderer.

The story is worth your time. There are a few surprises along the way and a few telegraphed events that the reader can see coming. And there are a few details that require some suspension of disbelief. Chief among them is how much mischief the four White House characters can cause without anyone around them noticing. Don't be distracted from your enjoyment by this--just watch the play without pointing out that some of the props don't look real. They are real enough for the characters, and it's the interplay between the characters that make the story good.

The book is highly recommended. If you have enjoyed the movie version of Absolute Power starring Clint Eastwood, you will still enjoy the book. There are enough differences to keep you surprised and entertained. Luther Whitney comes across a bit...flat in the book, but the other characters make up for it. I have a renewed appreciation of how much additional depth Eastwood brought to the character.
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I've been a fan of David Baldacci's political thrillers for a while now, but realized I had never read Absolute Power - the one that started his string of bestsellers. (17!)

Luther Whitney is a master burglar. For the last twenty years, he's tried to keep his nose clean. But he pulls one last job for an old friend. He breaks in without incident, but is suddenly forced to hide when the owner and some others come home. He is stunned when the unthinkable happens - even more unbelievable is the perpetrator - the President of the United States.

Luther turns to lawyer Jack Graham - the ex boyfriend of his estranged daughter.

What a great premise for a story! And Baldacci does it masterfully. The plotting is tight and the action non stop. I enjoyed discovering Baldacci's 'beginning.' He has made the secret service/White House thriller genre his own.

But the reader in this case was fantastic. Scott Brick is an award winning audio book narrator. His voice is rich and resonant, conveying the suspense of this novel, keeping me on the edge of my chair. His voice conveys so much, from the malevolence of the bad guys to the uncertainty of a bewildered daughter.

There was a bonus short story included on the last disc (17!) of this set. I didn't realize that this book had been made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman in 1997.
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on June 27, 2004
Here we have a book where the President of the United States is the bad guy.....and the criminal is the man of honor. This book is a thriller with political intrigue and takes place mostly around the Metro D.C. area.
The book starts with an aging burglar, Luther, breaking into a billionaire's well protected mansion. He is suprised, but not caught by none other than the President of the good ol'USA. Who happens to be with the billionaire's young wife. Luther who is hidden in a safe with a two-way mirror, watches as the President starts to beat on the young woman. The woman in an act of self preservation, grabs a letter opener and stabs the President. The ensuing struggle and yell from the President, brings the very effective Secret Service Agents into the room. Where they shoot and kill her.
The scheming Chief of Staff hatches a quick course of action to start a cover up. But no one is aware of Luther who has watched the whole horrid affair. The story begins to pick up speed when Luther decides he has do what is right and set things straight.
You can tell this is Mr. Baldacci's first book. But worth the read. I read Total Control first, and find that book of a much higher quality. I think he will only improve with each book he writes. There were parts in this book where I just had to read one more section before I put it down.
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on April 26, 2004
Here we have the president of the US screwing his mentor's, the richest man on earth, way too young wife. The Pres and the girl are stinking drunk. Turns out the Pres is a violent screw and starts to choke the girl. She fights back, the Pres's two body guards hear the noise, burst into the room and blow her head off. The Pres passes out on the bed. His Chief of Staff, a woman, is also there and when she enters the room decides they will clean up the mess and make it look like a burglary. So she tells the two body guards to go put on a pot of coffee cuz it's gonna be a long night. As soon as they leave she runs over, locks the door, jumps over the dead girl's body, stripes off her panty hose, straddles the naked, unconscious Pres and proceeds to rape(?) him till she gets her rocks off. Then puts herself back together and unlocks the door. IS THAT SICK OR WHAT!! What the heck was Baldacci and his editors thinking of when they left that Chief of Staff part in.
I never made it past that scene when first I tried reading this book a couple years ago. This go round I forced my self to read on. It gets better for a very little awhile....then falls apart when the eye witness (a burglar) to all the above , who's been arrested for the murder, refuses to talk to his lawyer (a long time friend) about what he saw. YEAH RIGHT. Give me a break. I don't know about you but if I witnessed the above murder I'd be talking my head off ASAP. And then the bodies start to drop, starting with the eye witness. Too many bodies are dropping with out any one making a fuss. I mean the richest man in the world is killed and nothing happens.
An utterly ridiculous book
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on April 16, 2004
This is the second book that I've read by this author, and it was definitely a page-turner. However, there weren't any characters that were really likable. The only character that I warmed to somewhat was Luther, a lifelong burglar who had spent a good part of his life in prison. What does that tell you about the rest of the characters in the book?
Jennifer, Kate, and Jack, although not criminal in a legal sense, were devastatingly emotionally immature and stunted. Their tragic lack of insight and common sense despite their towering academic and professional achievements were incongruities that we have all witnessed over and over again of those in power. Jennifer, in particular, seemed to be an archetypal caricature of those in certain social classes who are chronically afflicted with a haughty lack of humanity.
On a technical note, Luther proclaims that he voted for the current president, yet he's a three-time felon who lost his voting privileges a long time ago.
Nonetheless, this book was a fun read, and I'm sure I will seek out this author again.
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on October 22, 2002
I gave up on this novel on page 223. It simply didn't meet any of my expectations for a Baldacci novel. I enjoyed "The Winner" thoroughly, but "Absolute Power" falls flat for me.
I saw the movie when it was new, and I remembered it being well done. Thinking back, however, this was probably due to the performances of Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman, two actors who can make ANY material interesting. Eastwood also directed the film (I think), and edited this story down to the bare essentials.
Thankfully, the movie was edited down. The subplots and goings-on which were not included in the film are trite and I did not find them compelling at all. I got halfway though and couldn't muster up one ounce of interest in anything the "Jack" character did. The Chief of Staff character was not drawn very well either... anyone who behaves in such an unthinking, "maverick" fashion would never be able to stage a cover-up so elaborate.
Maybe I have a low tolerance for the "thriller" genre. I have a great deal of respect for the works of Ludlum, Clancy, McBain, Spillane, and Wambaugh, but have a hard time with your average thriller since they all seem the same to me. "Absolute Power" is no exception. The above authors all seem to bring something unique to the table; Baldacci does not.
I have to conclude this by reiterating that "The Winner" was an excellent thriller, so Baldacci is 1-and-1 on my score sheet. We'll see the next time I try him if he redeems himself.
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on October 10, 2001
Baldacci's first novel, "AbsolutePower" is a well-crafted suspense thriller which I enjoyed reading. It offers a super plot, well developed characters and a protagonist who is real and likeable.
Baldacci, like any good writer, has written a strong beginning; elderly, real-life burglar Luther Whitney, engaged in his criminal occupation, is caught in the web of a powerful spider while attempting to burglarize a home, but instead is forced to watch a brutal murder in which Alan Richmond, President of the United States is intimately involved. The reader is quickly hooked and steadily reeled in, until there is no way out for him but to read on to the end.
Protagonist Jack Graham, young lawyer and former lover of Luther Whitney's daughter, Kate, is inexorably drawn into the events by his desire to help Kate and her father, and, if possible, re-build the lost relationship he once enjoyed with Kate.
Seth Frank, chief homicide detective in the county where this crime occurs, is propelled by a sense of duty, as he attempts to piece together the clues that will unravel the mystery and reveal the perpetrator.
But, it's through President Richmond and the people around him that we are shown what this novel is really about. These people are all moral relativists. They neither believe in any objective standards, nor do they believe that truth exists. This is a dangerous combination of faults in anyone, but it's particularly dangerous when present in politicians or those in positions of power.
President Richmond is a man corrupted by the power of his office. He mistakenly believes that the most important person in the world is himself, and that he can do anything he wants to do. His top assistant, Gloria Russell, is driven by her lust for Richmond and a misguided quest for shared power. Secret Service Agent Bill Burton, victim of an overdeveloped sense of loyalty, does the expedient thing again and again, until finally he understands that a life without self-respect is a life not worth living.
This is an adult story for adult readers. Lord Acton is often quoted as saying, "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." It's from this famous quote that Baldacci's title is drawn. But let's not forget that power, no matter how absolute, will only corrupt if its possessor is devoid of high standards of morality. Freed of the sound restraining influence of moral values, a person can and often will exercise power badly. The result? Strife and turmoil in his own life and in the lives of those around him.
I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the dangers of moral relativism through the words and actions of fictional characters.
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on September 4, 2001
This book should have a warning on the cover: Caution! Turning pages too quickly may result in severe bleeding - I've never received so many paper-cuts in one sitting. Absolute Power blasts off with a philandering U.S. president involved in a murder, a subsequent CIA cover-up, a black-mailing jewel-thief who secretly witnesses the whole calamity, confused forensic scientists looking for missing bullets, investigating police suspecting everybody, political double-dealing, rich tycoons and international hitmen, CIA hitmen, righteous lawyers, corrupt lawyers, squabbling lawyers, lustful lawyers, lawyers in love, love triangles, love quadrangles, much trampling on civil rights by all, more cover-ups, and then - the pace really starts to pick up. Absolute Power is Maurice Greene in white shorts shortly after eating a dodgy kebab. It moves fast!
The characters have been recruited from the who's who of political/action thrillers: the misunderstood, good-hearted thief; the wronged, good-hearted daughter taking revenge on her unlawful father by living an excessively lawful life; the good-hearted, idealistic lawyer caught between the poor, yet beautiful woman he loves, and the rich, yet beautiful, woman he lusts for; the duplicitous, smiling politician, one hand held out in friendship, the other stabbing you in the back; the manipulative, power-hungry lawyer, both hands stabbing you in the front; unthinking foot-soldiers, just following orders, doing the dirty work; the list goes on, but hey, this ain't Joyce, nor should it be. It's a first rate potboiler with all the ingredients you've come to know and love, seasoned with a hefty dose of testosterone. I'm going back for seconds.
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on August 30, 2001
The compelling question throughout this book is, "Will the President get away with it?" Alan Richmond is up for reelection and winning in the polls by a landslide. Publicly, he is charming and compassionate. Privately, he is a philanderer and has had his billionaire friend Walter Sullivan's wife killed when the sex got too rough. He goes on TV and makes a compassionate speech of the tragedy, using the opportunity to boost his lead in the polls. The character of Alan Richmond reminds me of the mastermind of the kidnapping in the movie "Ransom". The guy's plan seems about to collapse, as his accomplices bail out on him. So he shoots them all, and being a policeman, calls in for backups. Surviving a bullet wound, he is a hero in the eyes of the rich parents of the son he kidnapped and in the eyes of the country. He almost collects his own ransom! At the last moment, the kid's father puts two and two together and discovers the culprit. In Absolute Power, the reader is kept wondering whether the president will get away with it like the guy in Ransom almost did. In some ways, this book isn't so fictional. Just as President Richmond admits, his "extracurricular activities" aren't much different from those of previous presidents, which is true. I also recommend the book, "Inside the White House" which contains facts about former presidents that much of the public is still unaware of. For example, Kennedy and Johnson were much like Clinton in their sexual lives. When Chief of Staff Russel gathered two million dollars to pay Witney's blackmail, Baldacci noted that nobody really knows how much money the White House uses because the money comes in from so many different government agencies (which is true). After reading "Inside the White House" you will see realistic ties between Absolute Power politics. The critical point of difference between the book and movie is at the meeting of Luther and his daughter. In the book, he is shot and I find it hard to believe that a man that stealthy and meticulous would be killed that easily. In the movie, he was prepared, as we would expect him to be. After the bullet missed him, amid all the chaos of people and police scrambling everywhere, all they find of him is his trenchcoat under the table. He was wearing a police uniform underneath it! He makes a later appearance as the chauffer of Walter Sullivan, which Sullivan hasn't even realized until Witney makes a wrong turn. Witney then informs him who the guilty party is and how he knows, as the White House appears up ahead. Sullivan is shocked and increduluos, but the pieces fit together and Witney has handed him the proof- the letter opener with DNA and prints on it. Emphasized in the book and movie is that Sullivan knows he MUST see to the death of whomever killed his wife. He's able to get through the beeping metal detector because one, he's Walter Sullivan and two, he has a metal cane. On the news, the nation learns about the shocking suicide of the president. What an ending! But in the book, the two best, most extensively characterized people are murdered and their efforts to do justice to Alan Richmond stomped. The book puts more emphasis on the police and the lawyers, with whom we are more apathetic, to solve the crime, wheras the "absolute power" is concentrated into the hands of two key people in the movie. The movie has a happier ending, with more justice because less innocents are killed and also because Luther finally establishes a healthy relationship with his long-estranged daughter.
The killing of Luther Witney complicates the plot because now, it seems, the president will get away with the murder, only now he's even guiltier than before. Though a crook, Witney never killed anyone and only robbed from those who could afford it and he is shown to be very loving and protective of his daughter. All these details help develop Alan Richmond as a "[explative]bastard", as Witney called him. I think the best part of the book's plot, also the most unexpected and depressing, is when Walter Sullivan is shot. Earlier in the book, the reader is bound to have developed a respect for his immense wealth and power. Now, we learn more of his backround- he was a self-made billionaire from a poor family. He bought out the mine where his father worked and paid for each worker's retirement, and he has maintained his vitality well into his 80's. He calls the president from his birth home on an expensive anti-tracking device to let his him know that his presidency and career have only hours left. "Great!" the reader thinks. Sullivan himself has discovered the culprit and will execute the punishment himself tomorrow morning. In the meantime, Sullivan sleeps comfortably on the very bed his father died on, knowing that his whereabouts are known to no one. Just as we think the plot has been resolved and the book is winding down, a gun is put into Sullivan's hand aiming at his head and the trigger is pulled before he knows what happened. Once again, the president has escaped destruction, while his guilt increases and he becomes ever more detestable in the eyes of the reader, just like the "Ransom" mastermind.
After watching the movie, I liked how Luther put himself at risk for the love of his daughter and he still survived and dethroned the president. But in the book, this love and trust of his daughter prevents him from dethroning the Richmond administration and gets him killed. I think the movie ending was better. Much of the book's added details enrich the story but some of them make it boring and drawn-out, like the details about the police and lawyers and the minor characters. I recommend the book and movie.
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