'Total Control' offers intricate, multi-plot thriller

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Book Reviewer

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Jason Archer , a young executive at Triton Global, a leading technology conglomerate, becomes enmeshed in a nefarious scheme to take over and merge CyberCom with Triton. Soon, a series of intersected plots will thicken as David Baldacci gives us corporate espionage, greed, plane crashes, murders, government agents, blackmail and a formidable female lawyer in the suspense tale “Total Control” (Grand Central; $15.99).

Jason’s wife, Sidney, is concerned that he has been working too many hours over the past few months and is disturbed by the thought that they were constantly fighting the American-consumer compulsion to spend as much as they earned. If Jason continued to move up at Triton, then Sidney would be able to ease her work load as lead counsel for Triton.

However, Jason tells Sidney that he has a surprise for her — he is going to Los Angeles to interview with another firm, AllegraPort Technology, an enormous specialty software company that has offered him a vice presidency at triple his salary with stock options. They will have to move to L. A., but her firm has an office there. Jason didn’t want to lie to his wife, but he had to.

After Sidney and their little girl are asleep, Jason unlocks a drawer in his office desk, follows his instructions and pulls out a floppy disk, copies everything on it, encrypts it and makes one copy, and as instructed, puts it in an old fashioned briefcase. It was almost over; he shuddered at the risks he had taken.

The scenario changes to a master scheme that will change some lives and end others. There are wheels within wheels that the reader may find confusing until the denouement. Jason doesn’t take the flight to L. A., but with a fool-proof, intricate plan, involving changes of clothes and disguise and with help of an accomplice, boards a plane for Seattle. As scheduled, Flight 3223 climbed to 35,000 feet, and the flight attendants went about their routine — a routine that was about to be interrupted as the right wing sheared off and the plane dropped to earth, killing the 174 passengers and seven-member crew.

When Sidney gets a phone call from Jason and knows he’s alive, for now, at least, she is determined to find out who sabotaged the plane. She continues to follow her career as a top notch lawyer. Jason had not been on Flight 3223, and he is in the middle of a scheme that involved Nathan Gamble, who told his personal lawyer that Jason Archer was working on a major project for Gamble, organizing all of Triton’s financial records for the CyberCom deal. On the other hand, Gamble has Sidney Archer heading his legal team.

Lee Sawyer, the FBI agent assigned to the plane crash, is using his wits and the latest technology as he stumbles across two others scenarios that are connect to Jason. An array of thoroughly evil blackmailers, murderers, gun play and financial manipulators add to the red herrings already strewn across Sawyer’s path.

Nathan Gamble and Sidney Archer are the final actors in the black tale of revenge and retaliation contrasted with loyalty, honor and Sidney’s quick arm. Gamble said, “My business is making money, not killing people. If I could have come up with another way I had would have. I had two problems: Lieberman and your husband. They both knew the truth, so I had to get rid of them both. The plane was the only way to get them together. Kill Lieberman and blame your husband.”

The denouement is a long time coming — the last dozen or two of the five-hundred pages of the book.

This work, written in 1997, is issued in 2019 as a large paperback. The technology in the novel may seem antiquated, but it is the focus of the fascinating, multi-plotted thriller.

David Caldacci is a global best-selling author of seven series and several stand-alone titles of which this is one.

An Excerpt

The director of the FBI, Lawrence Malone, had left an hour earlier after being briefed on the murder of one Robert Sinclair, most recently employed as an aircraft fueler at Vector Fueling Systems and now an occupant of a Virginia morgue. Sawyer felt sure a fingerprint run through the FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS, would give the late Mr. Sinclair another name. Conspirators in a scheme as large as Sinclair figured this one was rarely used their real names in securing employment positions they would later use to down an airliner.

More than two hundred and fifty agents had been assigned to the bombing of Flight 3223. They were following up leads, interviewing family members of the victims and undertaking an excruciatingly detailed investigating of all persons having the motive and opportunity to sabotage the Western Airlines jet. Sawyer figured Sinclair had done the actual dirty work, but he wasn’t taking any chances on overlooking an accomplice at the airport. While rumors had been floating in the press for some time, the first major story actually declaring the downing of the Western flight as being caused by an explosive device would be in the next morning’s edition of the Washington Post. The public would demand answers and they would want them soon. That was fine with Sawyer, only results weren’t always obtained as fast as one would like — in fact, they almost never were.

The FBI had latched on to the Vector line soon after the NTSB team members had found that very special piece of evidence in the crater. After that it was a simple matter to confirm that Sinclair had been the fueler on Flight 3223. Now Sinclair was dead, too. Someone had made sure he would never have an opportunity to tell them why he sabotaged the plane.

Long looked at Sawyer. “You were right, Lee. It was a heavily modified version of one of those new portable heating elements. The latest rage in cigarette lighters. No flame, just intense heat from a platinum coil, pretty much invisible.”

“I knew I’d seen it before. Remember the arson case involving the IRS building last year?” Sawyer said.