Book review: The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 Permalink

It’s no secret that I love David Baldacci’s novels – particularly his more recent work including the Amos Decker, Atlee Pine and Aloysius Archer series. I notice his latest book, The 6:20 Man is listed a standalone on the inside cover of the book, but wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a series and the door is certainly open for it to do so.

And given that I zoomed through it (unplanned) in an evening, having an almost-midnight bedtime on a ‘school’ night, I expect other readers will (also) have the appetite for more… given the likeable lead we’re proffered via Travis Devine.

Book review: The 6:20 Man by David BaldacciThe 6:20 Man
by David Baldacci
Series: The 6:20 Man #1
Published by Macmillan
on 12/07/2022
Source: PanMacmillan
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1529061962
Pages: 432

Every day without fail, Travis Devine puts on a cheap suit, grabs his faux-leather briefcase, and boards the 6:20 commuter train to Manhattan, where he works as an entry-level analyst at the city’s most prestigious investment firm. In the mornings, he gazes out the train window at the lavish homes of the uberwealthy, dreaming about joining their ranks. In the evenings, he listens to the fiscal news on his phone, already preparing for the next grueling day in the cutthroat realm of finance.

Then one morning Devine’s tedious routine is shattered by an anonymous email: She is dead.

Sara Ewes, Devine’s coworker and former girlfriend, has been found hanging in a storage room of his office building—presumably a suicide, prompting the NYPD to come calling on him. If that wasn’t enough, Devine receives another ominous visit, a confrontation that threatens to dredge up grim secrets from his past in the Army unless he participates in a clandestine investigation into his firm.

This treacherous role will take Travis from the impossibly glittering lives he once saw only through a train window, to the darkest corners of the country’s economic halls of power…where something rotten lurks. And apart from this high-stakes conspiracy, there’s a killer out there with their own agenda, and Devine is the bullseye.

Baldacci breaks the ‘show don’t tell’ rule as this book kicks off, but given his experience and engaging storytelling ability, I’ve decided he has my blessing. ( 😛 ) In fact he delivers enough context and backstory for Devine that this feels like part of a series – as if we met Devine when he was still a Ranger, before leaving the military – when instead Baldacci slowly but steadily shares Devine’s backstory. He’s a bit coy at first. We learn Devine feels as if he’s doing ‘penance’ in the frivolous world of finance and vast wealth. It sits uncomfortably with him but he mentions several times he’s paying the price for past deeds.

Given that he keeps that line but also mentions wanting to please his father, I wasn’t sure which it was. A bit of both perhaps. As a ‘Burner’ at Cowl and Comely dealing with numbers on a screen for minimal pay, with the hope of being kept on to rise to the next tier of the company hierarchy, it seems a thankless task. But I guess, once you make it to the top the payoff must be worth it. And Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the world of online trading and investment. I have to admit it’s not something that interests me at all and I’m not a fan of books featuring white collar crime. Baldacci’s Camel Club series wasn’t one of my faves for that reason, but here we’ve got some murders (tragic though they obviously are!!!!) thrown in for good measure.

** Incidentally I noticed this interview with Baldacci on FB about WHY he set this in the financial sector. I’d started this review at the time and wondered if he was tracking my work. 😯 

Devine’s linked to the first victim Sara, and though he could have envisioned a future together, she wasn’t interested and he didn’t push. But he’s invested even before the evidence doesn’t add up, before someone starts to frame him AND before he’s approached by a secretive government team to be the ‘inside’ man. It seems he’s inadvertently stumbled across some dodgy dealings, some of which potentially involve less-ethical governments. There are a few coincidences here which felt a smidge OTT, but that aside I blazed through this book, going way past the time I’d planned to put it down and sleep. It’s an addictive read, thanks predominantly to the characters.

There’s Devine of course, but also his odd room-mates – an eclectic bunch brought together by chance. Or perhaps something else? And then there’s the boss’s girlfriend in addition to another employee who was Sara’s main rival at the firm.

There are a few twists thrown in at the end. Some I didn’t see coming and some a smidge sad. But this is certainly action-packed – from the moment we meet Devine to the closing chapter, it doesn’t stop and Baldacci sustains that pace well. Indeed I kept turning page after page, eager to know who did what and what agendas they were hiding.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more to this series and I’d certainly be happy to meet Devine again.  There were also a few loose threads here and we didn’t entirely get closure with some bigger picture nefarious dealings alluded to on the world stage, so perhaps Baldacci’s planning on picking those up next time around.

The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci was published in Australia by Pan Macmillan and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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