Suddenly a video of a Russian man, Konstantin, being held captive and tortured appears on the internet. He speaks a few words and then his image disappears and is replaced by a mushroom cloud. Within a few days, the whole world knows Konstantin's name and are asking for answers from the Russian government. No one realizes that Konstantin is really an actor and the whole "incident" was made up by Pender's perception management firm.
"Dick, I need a war."
Nicolas Creel is a man on a mission. He heads up the world's largest defense contractor, The Ares Corporation. Dick Pender is the man Creel retains to “perception manage” his company to even more riches by manipulating international conflicts. But Creel may have an even grander plan in mind.
Shaw, a hitman and independent contractor, meets up with Anna, a researcher for the Phoenix Group, in Dublin. He proposes to her and she saids yes. Anna starts to research and review who or what might be behind the Konstantin scandal. She ends up posting a reply on a blog set up by Pender to "trap" persons wanting to expose the real truth regarding the Konstantin story.
Katie James once was a respected Pulitzer prize winning journalist but now covers funerals since she got caught drinking on the job. While covering a funeral in Dublin, she bumps into Shaw and follows him on a job. Shaw ends up saving Katie's life as the job goes sour. Katie ends up meeting with Anna and discussing Shaw and what he does for a living.
Creel realizes that the think tank Anna works for is owned by a Chinese private company with government ties. He decides to target the Phoenix Group in an attack in order to get Russia and China to start a cold-war type conflict. This conflict would provide lucrative contracts to his defense company.
During the attack on the Phoenix Group, Anna is killed right before she tries to escape by jumping out her window. At the same time Shaw is attacked and hospitalized. Katie ends up telling him about Anna's death after he wakes up in the hospital. Suddenly Katie is offered a job with another newspaper to cover the Konstantin story including the attack on the Phoenix Group. Shaw and Katie decide to work together to solve why someone attacked the Phoenix Group and how it related to the Konstantin scandal. In true Baldacci form, pieces fall into place and soon Shaw and Katie realize that everything is connected and has been orchestrated from the beginning by Creel and Pender.
Baldacci, David. The Whole Truth. Grand Central Publishing (2008). 544 pages. ISBN 0446539686.
What can I say about David Baldacci - other than - genius. His books never cease to amaze me and still grab my attention. It was interesting to think about how much of "the news" is really just spin or a specific perspective that we "believe" is true. Perception Management firms do exist and probably were involved in the "press" surrounding the latest conflicts in Iraq & Afghanistan. I found this definition of perception management from the Department of Defense:
Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning; and to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator's objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.
Yes - this book is a work of fiction - but it's not too hard to imagine how the plot could happen in the real world. I did think some of the plot "twists" were easy to figure out prior to their occurrence. I'm glad we didn't have a boy (Shaw) meets girl (Katie) in a tense situation and falls madly in love ending especially after Shaw proposes to Anna right in the beginning of the book.