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Book Review: The Innocent by David Baldacci

Having established himself as the premiere writer of “conspiracy in high places” thrillers in 1996 with his first novel, Absolute Power, which was made into a hit movie starring Clint Eastwood, David Baldacci has now written over 20 novels and remains the master of that subgenre. In The Innocent, the author remains at the top of his game.

Baldacci’s success lies in an ability to build plots and create characters that in lesser hands would seem like the fringe conspiracy theorist’s best bad dream. But Baldacci makes the story and the characters seem all too plausible and, seemingly, with some kind of prescience, topical and ripped from the headlines.

Will Robie is a case in point. He is a veteran assassin for a shady, unnamed U.S. Government agency and he roams the world at his master’s bidding eliminating targets as ordered with deadly efficiency. It’s a character and plot that would require the mainstream reader to suspend belief and accept them as entertainment, but with the recent dearth of assassinations of Al-Qaida leaders, Iranian nuclear scientists, etcetera, they become realistic. Baldacci is a master at this kind of story.

Fresh from two assignments to eliminate, presumably, just such enemies of America abroad, Robie is now on a mission closer to home in and around the nation’s capital. Armed with a dossier of the intended enemy’s photo, address, and biography of daily movements and habits, he has developed a plan approved by his handler and supported by backup personnel who make sure the needed weapons, information, and support services are readily at hand.

He doesn’t need to know the sins of the person, great or small. Robie leaves passing judgment to his superiors. He is only the executioner. Cold blooded and unemotional. He has operated this way for over a decade, and though oft times the condemned is an enemy of notorious reputation, just as often they are unknown to the world at large as a threat. Robie just dispatches them as efficiently as a lethal injection and as detached and dispassionate as a high-powered bullet fired on a battlefield.

Until now. With the voice of his handler guiding his every step and watching, from a distance, his back, Robie gains entry to the apartment building with the ease of a cat burglar. He makes child’s play of the locks to the apartment. He sneaks undetected to the victims bedroom, he IDs the target and then, silenced pistol at hand and aimed, he hesitates. He’s not quite sure why he hesitates in the completion of this execution. Is it because the condemned is a woman? But he has had to execute women before. Did he suddenly develop a conscious? He believes in his mission, however, as distasteful and it may play out to the media. Is it the unusual anxiety of his handler? But he has been on tense assignments before when his was the only cool hand on site.

Perhaps it is the unlikely location of the enemy in a quiet Washington D.C. suburb that wouldn’t seem the hideout of a public enemy. Perhaps it is the child, obviously the woman’s son, in bed with the target. But he still could have soundlessly dispatched her to oblivion and the child is young enough to where he would soon forget and heal from the trauma. Nonetheless, for the first time ever, Robie hesitates. His handler frantically calling for him to complete the assignment, urges him on in a near-panicked voice, but still Robie hesitates and then the child awakens and the intended victim stirs. Robie does the unthinkable–if hesitating is unthinkable, then this action is doubly so. He attempts to save the condemned, but her reprieve is short-lived as a sniper’s bullet pierces the window killing her and the child with one high velocity round.

About The Dirty Lowdown

I was born in Pomona, California at a very young age. I had a pretty normal childhood…or I was a pretty normal child hood if mom is telling the story. I was a paperboy and washed cars. I was a soda fountain jock-jerk and a manic mechanic but my first real job was as a labor organizer in a maternity ward. Then, because of the misjudgment of a judge I spent nearly 10 years in the service of our country mostly on KP duty. Our country sure turns out a lot of dirty dishes. I am a past master at pots and pans. They eventually recognized my real talent and let me wander around some very unfriendly places carrying a big radio that didn’t work. Along the way I took up the bass guitar, jotting down stories, electronic engineering and earned a degree in advanced criminal activities. I spent most of my adult life, if you can call it that, working in the I.T. industry, which I was particularly suited for since we worked in rooms with no windows. On and off I taught in colleges, universities and reform schools as a student teacher… I like smog, traffic, kinky people, car trouble, noisy neighbors, and crowded seedy bars where I have been known to quote Raymond Chandler as pickup lines. I have always been a voracious reader, everything from the classics, to popular fiction, history to science but I have a special place in my heart for crime fiction, especially hard-boiled detective fiction and noir. I write a book and music review blog for all genres at The Dirty Lowdown. And another dedicated to Crime Fiction and all things Noir called Crimeways. It’s named after the magazine that appeared in the Kenneth Fearing classic, The Big Clock. There I write scholarly reviews of the classic hard boiled, noir and crime fiction books from the 20's through today. Mostly I drool over the salacious pictures on the covers. I also write for Tecnorati/BlogCritics where i am part of a sinister cabal of superior writers.
  • Annie

    Wow you’re review is about as long winded as David Baldacci’s The Innocent. I found the dialogue in this novel to be unbelievable. A contract killer uses the word “hubby” in dialogue? An FBI agent uses the word “hubby” as well? To top it all off, the word “hubby” is also used in narration. Appalling. Not only is the dialogue unbelievable, but the plot is boring.