The Whole Truth
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing 2008
416 pages

If you think the premise of David Baldacci 's geopolitical thriller is far-fetched ask yourself how many people still believe the Gulf War's incubator babies story* or how many still believe there were WMDs in Iraq.

I prefer mystery novels to geo-political conspiracy thrillers like The Whole Truth. I am still recuperating from a couple of traumatically bad Robert Ludlum experiences thirty years ago.

William Randolph Hearst told a journalist "You provide the pictures and I'll provide the war."

This is what Nicolas Creel, international arms dealer and Dick Pender, PR guy do in The Whole Truth: create a world crisis.

Shaw is a very talented special agent working for a vague and menacing CIA-like organization that will not let him retire alive. His fiancée, Anna Fisher is a political science expert working for some head shop. Katie James is the once great journalist looking for the story that will put her back on top. The three get caught up in this fake world crisis that may become real.

It does take The Whole Truth a while to set up characters and situations and plods along a bit doing so. Had I not been a David Baldacci fan I might not have continued reading. This novel is certainly not as elegantly written or plotted as the Camel Club series.

A couple of the detecting stunts Katie James pulls early on are out of Murder She Wrote.

Chapter 30 is a rather didactic moment where Creel exposes his nefarious plan a la James Bond villain. The last half of chapter 58 reinforces that with insight into what Creel is thinking.

There are also a couple of later developments that make you question the necessity of past chapters about a particular character and a narrative thread.

Fortunately, this world crisis whodunit really picks up in the last third or so and then pretty much becomes a page turner.

The Whole Truth is a decent enough political thriller but it is clearly not this mystery novel writer's best work. It will come as no surprise to me though if this one becomes a movie.

Baldacci is still on my short have to read mystery novel list but I am not going to introduce anyone to this author with one.

*Niriyah al-Sabah told Congress that as a nurse she had seen Iraqi soldiers take Kuwaiti babies out of incubators and smash their heads on the floor. Nariyah-al-Sabah was in fact the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S. The story was created out of whole cloth by ad firm Hill and Knowlton. How many people still believe Iraqi soldiers ripped babies out of incubators? How many news outlets corrected the story after it was revealed as a hoax? Was the ad firm, or anyone punished for setting up a lie to Congress?