Book Review: David Baldacci’s Absolute Power takes us back to the 90s where it all began

Absolute Power was first published in 1996 and was the launching point for the career of author David Baldacci. The book sold record numbers and with over 150 million books sold since, Baldacci is still a regular on the thriller circuit.

Now, the book that started it all has been re-released with an exclusive introduction from its author. In it Baldacci reminisces on his journey to becoming a top thriller author, and how he cherished every single moment of that journey. It also shows the author offering a poignant look back at how his life, and the world around him has changed in the intervening years: “our world is diverse, and thus our stories must meet that standard.”

But what about the novel? Has it stood the test of time?

Absolute Power is well written and descriptive; so much so that you feel the pain and horror the perpetrators inflict on their victims. It’s also hard to believe there is no truth to the story either.

The novel centres on the President of the United States, who is drawn into a murderous web and then the lengths that the President and the Secret Service will go to prevent the truth from getting out.

As with any great thriller there’s plenty of red herrings along the way. A professional burglar who just so happens to be robbing the wrong place at the wrong time, and crimes within crimes. As a result the plot unfolds, untangles, twists and turns until the very end all ably helped along by Baldacci’s trigger happy Secret Service agents.

One of the strengths of the novel is its characters. As readers we are invited to like the professional burglar, Luther Whitney. Baldacci infuses the character with a relatable and plausible backstory — an estranged daughter and interesting life history — that adds a richness to the plot. I also loved the Police Officer, Seth Frank. What a great character! He’s smart, savvy and ready to help and protect.

Though each character is well written and given a degree of depth that can often be lacking in the genre. Readers are able to learn their backstories and glean their motivations. And, whilst some of the descriptions, especially of women, may be best left in the 90s there’s a lot of good character work here. Big time lawyers, mega-rich clients, police officers with integrity, presidents with no remorse, and some fine citizens all play an important role in Absolute Power.

If you love a great suspense thriller, then you’ll love Absolute Power. Maybe you read this book back in 1996? Well, it’s time to dig it out and read it again.


Absolute Power by David Baldacci is available now from Pan Macmillan.