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The Whole TruthReview - The Whole Truth
by David Baldacci
Hachette Audio, 2008
Review by Bob Lane, M.A.
Apr 7th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 15)

Baldacci's The Whole Truth as read by Ron McLarty is guaranteed to provide you with twelve hours of suspense, intrigue, action, love, and even a look into a possible world where truth can be manipulated by anyone with the money to buy the services of a perception management firm. The novel opens with Dick Pender, a former employee of the White House press office, who is now a first-rate perception manager, stating "Why waste time trying to discover the truth, when you can so easily create it?" By using the internet to  plant stories in Blogs, chat rooms, and other sources employed by print and television journalists, Pender and his team of manipulators are able to feed a world wide audience just what any client might want the world to believe.

Dick's client is a multi-billionaire arms dealer, Nicholas Creel, the CEO of Ares Corporation, the world's largest defense conglomerate. Creel is of the opinion that "a peace based on lurking terror was the best kind of all." But the world is relatively peaceful. Only a few small wars are flourishing and the need for some action to stimulate the arms fussiness if required. Creel's plan is to have Pender plant stories in the media that will bring about a clash between Russia and China leading to a world rearmament that will yield the Ares Corporation trillions of dollars in orders for the best weaponry money can buy. Pender is up to the task. Not only can he bury secrets and manipulate public opinion he can manufacture belief.

Creel and Pender set out to create a Big Lie. Suddenly images of a tortured man erupt on the most popular websites. We know the tortured man is a New York actor paid handsomely to play this part, but the world buys into the story and starts waiting for additional "evidence" of evil from the Russians. The wait is not long. Soon thousands of victims are shown on the internet, and the stories are picked up by the news media. The chilling part of this plot device is just that it is not only possible but is, no doubt, actual. It is not difficult to believe that a war could be sold to the public based on false information. In fact, as we all know the first casualty in war is the truth.

Against this pair of evil players, with their resources, armed thugs, and connections, are set A Shaw, a 6'5" comic book super hero, who works for Frank Wells, the leader of a somewhat shadowy international anti-terrorist outfit, and two women, Anna Fisher and Katie James. Fischer is an academic, the most beautiful and talented woman in the world, and the woman who accepts Shaw's marriage proposal by saying "Yes" in nineteen languages. James is a Pulitzer Price winning alcoholic journalist, wracked by guilt, now reduced to writing obituaries for her paper.

Shaw warms up by taking out several Arab drug dealers. Then he hooks up with Anna, proposes marriage, meets her parents, and promises to get a desk job after just one more small job. Suffice to say that the marriage never happens, the small job becomes a large effort to save the world from World War III, and Shaw and Katie will end up working together to catch Creel and Pender. All of this action is delivered expertly by Ron McLarty who knows how to read a novel.

The Whole Truth is exciting and fun, frightening in its concept of manufactured belief, and has a ring of truth to it. Twenty-first century readers can easily imagine how news can be manufactured, and we have read Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent. Its short chapters work well to deliver suspense and create an appetite for more. The critic Eleanor Bukowsky argues that the novel is "marred by cliché-ridden dialogue and cartoonish villains who utter such lines as:  "I didn't bring you here for a lecture.  I brought you here to die."  The story is overly complicated and melodramatic, and the author repeatedly hammers home his heavy-handed message that unscrupulous individuals and governments intentionally mislead us by disseminating false information.  Baldacci does generate a fair amount of suspense, but his pedestrian writing, preposterous plot, and one-dimensional characters may limit the book's appeal to adrenaline junkies and fans of escapist thrillers." [Source]

That's a bit harsh in my opinion. The action, suspense, and credibility redeem the work. My one criticism came at the end of the work. After assiduously preparing the reader/listener for a showdown between good and evil, when it comes it's almost anti-climactic.

Baldacci is the subject of an article in the March 30, 2009, issue of Newsweek titled "Thriller Instinct." The in-depth article covers his beginnings as a novelist through his success as a #1 New York Times bestseller to the exploits of the Camel Club in the Library of Congress. The article includes comments from personal friends and colleagues in the publishing industry, and it highlights David's efforts in the fight against illiteracy through his family foundation. [Source]

© 2009 Bob Lane

Bob Lane is an Honorary Research Associate in Philosophy and Literature at Vancouver Island University in British Columbia.


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