Baldacci’s latest thriller is a decent recovery from Zero Day, his previous most recent novel and an unexpected bomb, in my opinion (see my earlier review). The Innocent has likeable if unoriginal characters, an exciting if somewhat predictable plot, plenty of gore, a touch of romance, and just enough of a political tinge to keep it interesting but still politically correct.
Baldacci once again centers much of the action in the Washington DC/Northern Virginia area he knows so well, and builds his story around a U.S. government assassin who only questions his life and those who deploy him when he is ordered—but refuses–to kill his target, a working mother of two right in the nation’s capitol. She is not the drug cartel boss, terrorist financier, and so forth he usually is sent after, and besides, she has two cute kids. Trained killer Will Robie suddenly discovers he has a soft spot for helpless females, babies, and a smart-ass teenage girl he encounters running for her life. Robie and the girl end up going on the run together, trying to figure out who killed her parents and is after her, and who ordered him to do a bad hit and then tried to kill him.
At first, their two stories appear to be unrelated, but little by little, the clues, the victims, and the story lines cross, until it becomes evident that there is a huge conspiracy afoot, and the players are very high up inside U.S. intelligence, defense and law enforcement. The big disappointment to me is that, while Baldacci’s plot gave him ample ammunition for going after real corruption inside the U.S. political machine, something he has not shied away from in his earlier novels, he instead chose a more clichéd approach in The Innocent. And somehow, I managed to guess rather early in the plot who the ultimate baddie was, and that was a bit of a disappointment for me.
Nonetheless, as far as Baldacci thrillers go, this one had all the right stuff and I’ll confess that I mostly enjoyed it, despite the nagging feeling that I had already read the story–or seen the movie—before.