Author of 18 bestselling novels, David Baldacci makes a remarkable impression yet again with his book ‘The Winner’. The book is aptly titled, for it is a race; a race between a woman desperate to protect her daughter and herself, and a ruthless killer who is capable of taking away all she has.
The first part of the book describes a young,quick-witted, beautiful 20-year old LuAnn Tyler, whose life is everything she doesn’t want it to be. She works in a truck stop,lives in a trailer in poverty stricken Rickersville, Georgia, with her alcoholic boyfriend Duane,who earns nothing and barely even cares. Stuck in a rut of poverty and misery,the only thing keeping her alive is her little baby girl, Lisa, who is the only person that LuAnn cares about. Though street-smart and impressive, LuAnn lacks a formal education and sees no way out of her deplorable state.
Along comes ‘Jackson’, a mysterious middle aged man who offers LuAnn a way out: the a lottery. He tells LuAnn that he can fix the national lottery and give her a 100 million dollars and an easy escape from her life. At first she declines, but circumstances work themselves such that she gets caught in a scandal with no fault of her own and is forced to accept Jackson’s offer. However, Jackson has a few conditions. He tells LuAnn that firstly,she must let him have the 100million dollars for a decade, which he would invest as he pleases and give her the interest, enough to give her and her daughter a leisurely life. Secondly, LuAnn must leave the United States forever, assume a new identity and sever all ties with her former identity forever.
Unable to see a way out, LuAnn accepts, takes on the identity of Catherine Savage.She wins the lottery and alongwith Lisa and a warm-hearted, elderly man named Charlie who was charged with the job of taking care of her and Lisa before winning the lottery, and who she befriended, she leaves America and goes to Europe, to live her life pretending to be the widow of a rich European.
The book now fast forwards ten years. Luann is now an elegant, strong willed 30 year old Catherine Savage, and Lisa a beautiful 10 year old girl. Their family is completed by Charlie, who is like an uncle to Lisa and a much needed friend and confidante to LuAnn. The time has come for LuAnn and Jackson’s deal to expire and for her to get her 100million dollars back. LuAnn makes a dangerous decision, of that to return to America. What she does not know is that a relentless journalist has picked up her trail and has vowed to follow it till he finds her and her true story, and that nothing escapes the mysterious Jackson, who will not stop at anything to keep his secrets, not even murder.
LuAnn returns to live in a secluded villa, but things get heated up very fast. She meets a contractor, Matthew, who falls in love with her, yet LuAnn is shocked to find out that he too has a secret past life of lies and deceit, not unlike hers.
What follows is a race: The race between Jackson and LuAnn, for each must protect their own secrets and expose the other or they shall not survive, the race between the journalist’s determination to find the truth and Jackson’s cold blooded need to prevent exposure.
The tale is full of twists and turns, with new secrets being exposed every few pages. Baldacci does not let the reader trust anyone, not even self righteous LuAnn and Matthew. Jackson’s character, that of a master-of-disguise, all-knowing, cold blooded killer, chills to the bone. Baldacci pens an unusually intriguing story with the usual suspects : love, money, deceit and murder.
Personally,I liked the book for its unique storyline and expert handling of character sketches. Baldacci does not haggle, and keeps the interest of the readers very much alive at all times. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of thrillers. The book’s climax is well written and validates the title, for with so much at stake,the winner truly does take all.
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