LuAnn Tyler has had a pretty rough life. She lived through a horrible childhood, only to drop out of school in 7th grade as many kids did in poverty stricken Rikersville, Georgia.
At twenty years old, LuAnn still has it rough. Though she is armed with beauty and street smarts, it hasn't been enough to get her out of poverty.
She now lives in a run down trailer with her loser boyfriend Duane and their baby, Lisa. Duane spends his nights drinking and sleeps all day. LuAnn works in a truck stop at nights just to survive. She even keeps Lisa with her in the diner just to keep the baby away from Duane.
One day out of the blue, LuAnn receives a phone call from a stranger for a job opportunity. When she meets the stranger, he tells her he can fix the National Lottery and guarantee she is the sole winner. There is a catch in that LuAnn must do exactly as this stranger "Jackson" says. When LuAnn wins the money, she must hand it over to Jackson. He'll invest it for 10 years while giving LuAnn a generous allowance amounting beyond anything she's ever dreamed. After 10 years, she gets her money back and all ties with Jackson are severed.
Jackson gives LuAnn a small amount of time to think over the decision. What LuAnn doesn't know is that she'll be killed if she says no to Jackson.
While pondering the offer, LuAnn stumbles into the middle of a major felony crime. (I'm treading very carefully here, so as not to give away big chunks of the story. Sorry if I seem vague.) Though she's 100% innocent, LuAnn knows she'll be the prime suspect. This turn of events cements the decision to take Jackson up on his offer. She calls him, buys a ticket and heads to New York City with Lisa in tow for the National Lottery drawing.
Sure enough, LuAnn wins. However, she is a wanted suspect in Georgia. Jackson immediately sends her out of the country and tells her never to return again. Her complete identity is changed and she must always be in the run so as not to be discovered.
Jackson is a strange and mysterious man. He is able to fix the lottery, but no one knows how. He has lots of connections, but those on his payroll have never met the recluse.
One such employee is "Charlie." His job is to make sure LuAnn, now known as Catherine Savage, makes it safely out of the country. Charlie is much older than LuAnn, but the two take a family-type liking to each other. Charlie decides to leave his mysterious service job and be with LuAnn and Lisa.
Fast-forward 10 years in time. LuAnn is now Catherine and she is 30 years old. Baby Lisa has grown into a beautiful young girl. Charlie is still with them, filling the role of "Uncle."
The 10 years are up and Catherine is looking forward to her disassociation with Jackson. She and Charlie have secretly bought a house back in the States. Catherine's false papers say she is a widow of a rich European man.
Catherine, Charlie and Lisa are tired of traveling all the time. They plan to live quietly and privately on a 300-acre estate.
What they don't realize is that people are on to them. A veteran newspaper reporter is examining the news story of LuAnn Tyler, who supposedly committed a horrible crime, won the lottery and mysteriously disappeared. This man is also very close to finding that LuAnn Tyler and Catherine Savage are the same woman.
Jackson has also found out that LuAnn has returned and is livid. He'll do anything to keep his secret safe, even kill. He's onto LuAnn and Charlie. He's onto the reporter as well.
The Winner is a story of money, murder and deception. Nobody is who he or she seems to be. Just when you think you have a feel for a character, David Baldacci twists the story line, revealing that you never really knew the character at all.
Lies and deceptions fly freely between the pages. You have to read some sections carefully, or you'll miss valuable parts of the story. By the climactic end, I found myself trusting no one, not even the heroine.
Toward the middle of the story, the pace inexplicably slowed down. However, once all the characters were on to each other, the drama picked up again and didn't stop until the very last page.
I have to give the author credit for creating such a fine female character. LuAnn may lack education, but she has brains. I don't want to give too much away, but at some point in the book LuAnn kicks some guy's butt. What a relief to read about a woman who stands up to her fear instead of hiding in the corner and screaming as though she were in some cheesy horror movie.
Enough of my feminist soapbox already. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Winner. Some of the elements were outlandish, but the characters were interesting and the story made me think What if?
This is the second David Baldacci book I have read and the first I have reviewed. I intend on reading many more books by this author and suggest you do the same.