Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Baldacci”

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #70: The Innocent by David Baldacci

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.

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #48: Zero Day by David Baldacci

Holy cow! Baldacci actually stole a brilliant character from a competitor author and made it work…sort of.  With his latest thriller, author David Baldacci introduces a new hero John Puller, who appears to be modeled precisely on the Reacher “prototype” made famous by author Lee Child. Both Jack Reacher and John Puller (“reacher” and “puller”?) are essentially army cops—Reacher is a former M.P. (military police) and Puller an Army warrant officer. Both are big, brawny, silent, loner types who carry a lot of internal baggage but not much else. Both end up in hairy situations that rapidly evolve into huge conspiracies, and both invariably team up—temporarily–with cool kick-ass female cops/FBI/sheriffs.  Neither have the time nor, it would seem,  the inclination, for a serious relationship with anyone or anything.

There are differences, to be sure. Reacher carries his toothbrush around with him and has no place to call home, while Puller—still active military—has a cat waiting for him back in his minimalist apartment, whenever he drops by for a shower and change of uniforms. More importantly, Puller has a father—a former highly-decorated general slowly dying of Alzheimers—and a brilliant older brother serving a life sentence for some undefined act of treason. But in mode of action, Reacher and Puller are carbon copies, which makes for a rather disconcerting read by someone–like me–who has enjoyed all of the novels of both authors.

In a nutshell, Puller gets deployed to a tiny and dying coal town in West Virginia where a visiting Defense Intelligence colonel and his entire family were murdered. Puller is sent in solo, with no back up, and is told that the case is important and unusual, but is given no further information or instruction. Several more bodies are discovered and his only ally in the investigation is a lady cop related by marriage to the wealthy and despised owner of the coal company that is slowly killing the town and who is Puller’s first suspect. Many characters of varying degrees of believability are introduced to the plot, which unfortunately remains rather opaque throughout much of the novel, but which is finally and dramatically unveiled near the end and then solved in typical big-bang fashion by Baldacci’s hero.

While Baldacci’s writing is always fast-paced, exciting, and filled with lots of political, intelligence, military, and technical savvy, it still falls short of the nuanced ambience of the Jack Reacher novels. The plot of Zero Day, as with many of Baldacci’s books, is just shy of implausible but a fun read for all that.

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