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Literature / Last Man Standing

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Last Man Standing is a crime thriller written by David Baldacci along with some assistance by former FBI HRT operative Christopher Whitcomb. The protagonist of this story is FBI Agent Web London who is part of their elite Hostage Rescue Team.

Web is the Sole Survivor of a textbook HRT raid, which turned into a massacre. Wracked with PTSD and Survivor Guilt, Web tries to piece his life back together, investigate the massacre and protect Billy and Gwen Caulfield, two horse ranchers who are the target of a right wing militia. While seeing a shrink named Claire for his PTSD, Web explores events from his childhood that he’d long thought suppressed, while Claire herself uncovers a sinister conspiracy involving a drug kingpin and a fellow psychologist. As they uncover the details of the massacre, it’s originator could be one of the Caulfields themselves.


Tropes encountered here are

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Gwen is sleeping around with one of her ranch hands because Billy has been emotionally cold to her ever since their son died. We later find out he has a very good reason to outright blame her for their son’s death.
  • Auto Turret: A jury rigged one took out Web’s team.
  • Appeal to Worse Problems: Francis Westbrook has this kind of attitude towards right wing militias. He thinks their “problems” are nothing compared to what poor black folk like him went through in the ghetto.
  • Badass Normal: Web is not an ex-spec ops guy like most of his HRT squadmates. He was previously just a regular FBI Agent with a law degree - who happened to pass HRT selection.
  • Bash Brothers: Web and Romano, eventually.
  • Da Chief: Percy Bates the SAC of the Washington Field Office.
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  • Did Not Get The Guy: Claire clearly wants to get with Web. She dresses up for him, has a romantic dinner, but then reveals that she gave Web a post hypnotic suggestion to suppress the memory of him killing his drunk abusive stepfather as a child. He is understandably pissed off and walks out on her.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: A lot of HRT members are ex-Special Forces, ex-SEALs, with Teddie Riner and Paul Romano even being ex-Delta. But that said, HRT itself is considered an elite SWAT team.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Francis Westbrook’s chiefly African American drug gang has a white security chief, Clyde Macy.
  • For Want of a Nail: The attempt by HRT to rescue all the kids taken hostage by the right wing militia ended up with some kids dead because one kid’s cellphone chirped, compromising the assault team that was inserting stealthily.
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  • Friendly Sniper: Web.
  • Hypno Fool: Web is revealed to be a somnambulant (sleepwalker) and therefore extremely succeptible to hypnotic suggestion. This was used to make him freeze up during the ambush of his team.
  • Large and in Charge: Drug kingpin Francis Westbrook is yyyuuuuuuuggggee!
  • Misplaced Retribution: Gwen blames HRT for causing her son’s death. In actuality they weren’t at fault at all. Their otherwise textbook assault on the school got compromised because Gwen called her son’s cellphone right when HRT was inserting. The sound of the cellphone ringing alerted the hostage takers, who found the HRT assaulters and fired at them and the children. So, Gwen actually is solely responsible for her son’s death.
  • Big Brother Instinct / Papa Wolf: Francis towards Kevin.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Percy Bates.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Gwen.
  • Revenge: Gwen had Web’s team massacred and Web deliberately left alive, because she blames them and particularly him for a botched hostage rescue that left her son dead.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The Free Society, who first targeted a school where the Caulfields had sent their son. These guys want to finish the job and kill the Caulfields too. These guys even officially change their last names to “Free”.
  • Scope Snipe: How Web takes down Macy.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran / Survivor Guilt : Web, very much so.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Web and Paul Romano initially.
  • The Worf Effect: Web, a tough as nails HRT operative gets his ass kicked by the ginormous Francis Westbrook.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Romano’s father very much wanted to be a cop with NYPD, but a weak heart prevented him from being accepted. He therefore wanted very much for Paul to become a cop instead. When Paul got accepted into Columbia, graduated and was then accepted into the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and even started thinking about a career as an academic, Romano Sr had a heart attack and his last words were that Paul had shamed him. This led to Paul joining the Army, Delta, then the FBI and HRT. He ended up becoming one of the most elite of all lawmen in America.

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