Though first released in 2010, David Baldacci’s Deliver Us from Evil is just as relevant today. This is the second (and so far last) in the Shaw series. The story can stand alone and grips the reader from the very first page. Shaw works for a shadowy international organization under Frank Wells and was originally conscripted for his considerable talents in exchange for dismissing some sticky legal issues in which he’d been ensnared. While his every move is tracked, he takes on assignments to apprehend the most dangerous criminals to hand off to the appropriate law enforcement organizations through a cooperative, multinational effort. At the outset, Shaw is still smarting from his previous assignment through which his fiancée lost her life, and with her, he lost his heart. The bulk of his backstory was shared in the first book of the series, The Whole Truth.
Shaw’s current target can aptly be described as evil incarnate. On the surface, he is a wealthy, somewhat eccentric, legit, Canadian businessman, but Evan Waller has a very dark side. His hidden dealings combine human trafficking and dangerous arms sales that could prompt a nuclear holocaust. Shaw is tasked with snatching him up to rat out the nuclear terrorists in return for the governments that support Shaw’s agency letting Waller continue to enjoy his other despicable trades. Although not comfortable with the idea of letting him off the hook for any of his illicit endeavors, Shaw initially agrees to follow his orders. As a rule, he only makes use of deadly force when his own life or those he loves are threatened and there is no other option available.
Unbeknownst to Frank and Shaw, Reggie Campion works with a ragtag team of British Nazi-hunters. Their work isn’t sanctioned either officially or unofficially by any government, as their methods are in the realm of vigilante justice to rid the world of evil, one war criminal at a time. Reggie’s boss is Professor Miles Mallory, an eccentric problem solver sequestered on his large, dusty estate in the English countryside. She’s joined by fellow assassin, Whit Beckham, a sly Irishman. Others round out their small field team, and together, despite a serious lack of resources, they are quite formidable. Their latest target is the same as Shaw’s, but their goals aren’t aligned. They know a different side to Evan Waller, including his real identity and heritage. Fedir Kuchin (AKA, Evan Waller) has a history far worse than his current escapades might imply. It is for this history that Mallory tasks his squad.
When Waller decides to take a short, luxurious vacation in Provence, renting a grandiose villa, Shaw and Reggie’s team’s efforts intertwine in an adventure of discovery, danger, and heart-stopping action. Over the course of their mission, the two teams uncover that they are after the same person for wildly different reasons. Shaw seeks legal justice. Reggie and company seek a more biblical level of retribution, Old Testament style. Waller slowly becomes aware of the situation and concocts other plans to remedy things threatening any just outcome.
There are numerous subplots complicating the picture and occasionally shifting the alliances. As usual, Baldacci draws fascinating characters who curry the readers’ favor along the way. Waller is a charismatic killer, though he has no redeeming value to the world at large. His henchmen and associates show that they have their limits, although it’s not obvious to any casual observer that such limits exist. The action is painfully graphic at times in a high stakes battle that spans continents. It’s easy to get lost in the story, although some of it reads a little too true to life given current world events where fact is far more bizarre and dangerous than the most unhinged fiction.
Both Reggie’s team and Shaw have significant baggage from the work they do, but they are dedicated to what they consider the greater good. Each is haunted by their past hoping that every new assignment will give them some relief from the guilt and grief they feel. Their histories don’t stop them from taking decisive action when necessary, but they can make the quiet moments tortuous sometimes.
Shaw is concerned that to date, everyone he cared about encountered life-threatening situations not of their own making, and he blames himself for all those past damages. While tempted from time to time, his history makes him resistant to future personal entanglements, romantic or otherwise. He just doesn’t want more innocent people dying because of him even when others care about his well-being and choose to get involved.
Reggie is similarly haunted, but in her case not by friendships or romances, but instead by kinship. She’s concerned that the ills of her family have infected her and made her unworthy of any kind of normal life. Every time she is deployed, she wonders if it will be the last time, and she questions whether it might be better if it was.
Despite their pasts, or maybe because of them, Shaw and Reggie find that they make a formidable team. Along the way, each becomes concerned that they might cause the other’s demise as old patterns threaten to repeat themselves. Baldacci makes readers care about what happens to Shaw and Reggie.
While the resolution of the story is a bit contrived, it is breathtaking and very satisfying. At the time of this writing, there is no third book in the Shaw series, but Baldacci leaves the door open to continue his adventures at some future date.