Gene Lyons
February 21, 1997 AT 05:00 AM EST

In Hollywood terms, University of Virginia law school grad David Baldacci is already a bit ahead of the curve: The film version of his first novel, Absolute Power, starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman, is currently in theaters nationwide. It’ll be interesting to see how much sense, if any, a screenwriter can make of this second offering. Besides a basic lawyer-babe-on-the-run angle, the convoluted plot features deadly yet all-too-familiar intrigue: a high-stakes corporate takeover in the computer-software industry, a sabotaged airliner, a blackmail scheme involving the chairman of the Federal Reserve, a tough-but-tender FBI man of mature years, and lots of high-tech hugger-mugger involving purloined data, secret passwords, laptops, cell phones, pagers, E-mail, voice-mail, etc. These machinations are all further hampered by a lumbering prose style that makes Total Control read like a software manual translated from Japanese.

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