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The Innocent    by David Baldacci order for
by David Baldacci
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

David Baldacci has always given us explosive, highly entertaining, yet thought provoking reads from his Camel Club series to his crime-fighting duo of ex-Secret Service agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, and stories (The Whole Truth, Deliver Us from Evil etc.) about superspy Shaw, a Mission Impossible style operative, working for a US agency that doesn't officially exist.

Will Robie, action hero in The Innocent, works for a similar organization as an assassin sanctioned (but never acknowledged) by a clandestine US agency. The story opens on a couple of his hits against targets 'with more money than morals'. But Robie, mentored by Shane Connors, who since retired, is beginning to wonder whether he will live long enough to face his own retirement - 'It seemed his entire existence was one uninterrupted countdown.'

Back in Washington, D.C., his life begins to change. First he considers dating an attractive young neighbor, who happens to work at the White House. Then he's assigned a new local target. But at the last minute he smells something rotten about this assignment and declines to shoot. Unfortunately, his handler had arranged a backup who completes the kill, and then tries to take out Robie too.

On the run from his own all powerful agency, he meets another fugitive. Feisty fourteen-year-old Julie Getty returned home from foster care (after reporting the abusive, drug dealing foster parents to Social Services) only to watch her parents being murdered in front of her. The killer came after Julie too, on the bus that Robie also chose to escape town. Soon they are on the run together.

The action is non-stop and explosive (with plenty of collateral damage) as Robie tries to make sense of all that has happened and to protect Julie at the same time. And this tough teenager is unwilling to sit on the sidelines - Julie wants in on the action too. Soon they are working alongside FBI agent Nicole Vance, always wondering who can be trusted.

The Innocent is thoroughly engrossing, from first page to last, with Baldacci - and his hero - at the top of their games. The plot is nicely convoluted, with dangerous surprises and high value targets at every turn. And the hints of romance are nicely done. Don't miss Baldacci at his best!

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