RICHARD reads reviews: INNOCENT, David Baldacci

Baldacci never fails to deliver an entertaining, well-written crime story. The Innocent delivers very well.

However, Baldacci may be beginning to fade.

The Innocent
David Baldacci

Synopsis
America has enemies – ruthless people that the police, the FBI, even the military can’t stop. That’s when the U.S. government calls on Will Robie, a stone cold hitman who never questions orders and always nails his target. But Will Robie may have just made the first – and last – mistake of his career…

It begins with a hit gone wrong. Robie is dispatched to eliminate a target unusually close to home in Washington, D.C. But something about this mission doesn’t seem right to Robie, and he does the unthinkable. He refuses to kill. Now, Robie becomes a target himself and must escape from his own people.

Fleeing the scene, Robie crosses paths with a wayward teenage girl, a fourteen-year-old runaway from a foster home. But she isn’t an ordinary runaway — her parents were murdered, and her own life is in danger. Against all of his professional habits, Robie rescues her and finds he can’t walk away. He needs to help her.

Even worse, the more Robie learns about the girl, the more he’s convinced she is at the centre of a vast cover-up, one that may explain her parents’ deaths and stretch to unimaginable levels of power.

Now, Robie may have to step out of the shadows in order to save this girl’s life… and perhaps his own.

Richard’s notes
Is it possible that best selling writer has just so many great books in them? They write with polish and purity, creating many great stories and then, bump, they hit a wall. The new book is not quite that good. It’s good but it doesn’t reach the heights as each of the earlier books did. Perhaps the writer is tired. Perhaps the creativity is spent. Perhaps the motivation no longer is there, the inspiration decayed just a little.

All of the above aspects of the decline can be seen in the work of the great Tom Clancy, the renowned Lee Child. A perceptive reader will feel the book is not hitting the right spots anymore. There no longer is a sharp edge to the writing as there once was. Clancy ended up working in collaboration with understudies, students who teamed up with him, maybe even wrote the basic story which Clancy then tweaked and fine-tuned. But a sharp reader would see between the lines and see it was not classic Clancy.

Same for Lee Child. In fact, what often happens much like Clancy using surrogate writers, the writer uses another strategy to continue writing, falling back on to writing short stories, publishing a book that is such a collection rather than one big opus.

It’s a sad thing to see powerful writers begin the inevitable decline into average. Baldacci’s The Innocent has the whiff of mould about it. It isn’t as crisp as his other works though it is far from being his latest endeavour, written in 2012. And Baldacci was very astute, he has a cast of heroes he can trade upon. This book had Will Rob. Other leading characters, Amos Decker, John Puller, the team of King and Maxwell. So at least he can refresh his works by changing his hero. It worked for a long time. It still works, but less effectively as his power of prose wanes.

Recommended but tepidly
Not that The Innocent is a lousy book. It has an intricate plot. It has twists and turns and it has suspense reaching a comfortable ending. But the writing isn’t crisp, it isn’t powerful, it isn’t riveting. It is pedantic, journeyman writing, polished obviously by professional experience developed over years of good writing.

The Innocent is a good story, an entertaining one which will not disappoint any Baldacci fan. However, the discerning Baldacci reader may see the cracks and little flaws. Too much repetition, dwelling too long on one scene, not moving along at a good steady pace. These may all be symptoms of the beginning of the end. I hope not.

Worth reading . . . 3 1/2 stars

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