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30 July 2016

David Baldacci: The Winner

An entertaining fantasy thriller
During the drought season of new releases at the beginning of the calendar year I revisited a number of best-selling books that I had read many years ago. THE WINNER is the third standalone book by David Baldacci released in 1998 which immediately became a best-seller. It is still a pretty good read and an entertaining fantasy thriller.

The fantasy setting has dirt-poor single mother LuAnn Tyler winning about $100 million in the national lottery. The real fantasy is that LuAnn had been selected by a clever sociopath who could fix the winning numbers. LuAnn had been given a deadline to accept the offer and the sociopath ("Mr Jackson", a master of disguise) had arranged for her to be eliminated if she didn't accept on time.

Minutes before accepting LuAnn walks into her run-down trailer and finds her deadbeat partner has just been shot over a drug deal. She hits the assassin with a phone and thinks she has killed him. On the run, she calls Jackson and agrees to the deal. Jackson helps her with a disguise and a new identity and she and her daughter escape to live overseas with an understanding that she will never return to the USA. Over several years, Jackson invests the money very successfully and shares the gains with her so LuAnn becomes a very wealthy person.

Jackson reminds her that she should never come back to the US. But after 10 years LuAnn is sick of living overseas and desperately wants to return to the US. When she does this without Jackson's knowledge he is very angry and threatens to punish her and her daughter. The plot then twists and turns as the FBI and the IRS are searching for her in connection with the lottery scam and tax avoidance and Jackson tries to take retribution.

The only help comes from the mysterious Matthew Riggs who has contracted to build a security fence for her. Of course, a strong attraction builds between Riggs and LuAnn.

This is an entertaining fantasy thriller with an unbelievable and very dangerous sociopath pulling the strings. Baldacci went on to write many successful series but some of the early standalone ones are still among his best.

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