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The Camel Club    by David Baldacci order for
Camel Club
by David Baldacci
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Camel Club, David Baldacci gives us a thriller that addresses both the question of who will watch the watchers, and the danger to world order of a draconian response to terrorism.

The book's title refers to a group of four conspiracy theorists, outsiders who to their own surprise stumble upon the biggest conspiracy of all. The story opens on the staged death of a terrorist, and the real deaths of his compatriots. What's this all about? We don't find out who is behind it and why until late in the novel. Next we meet Oliver Stone (an assumed name), a cemetery caretaker and a seeker of truth, a scarce commodity in Washington, D.C.. His second home is a tent, from which he watches President James H. Brennan come and go in his motorcade. The President is often accompanied by intelligence czar Carter Gray, a man whom Stone knows from days gone by. Gray, whose wife and daughter died on 9/11 at the Pentagon, is the all powerful head of the National Intelligence Center.

Meeting on Theodore Roosevelt Island, and looking for a new cause, the four Camel Club members are shocked to observe a murder, set up to look like suicide. Pursued by the killers, they barely escape with their own lives. Not being individuals with much credibility, they can't go to the police, but know the bad guys are on their trail. So this investigation becomes their new cause. Another major player is veteran Secret Service agent Alex Ford, currently assigned to the Washington Field Office, and partnered with the highly-connected Jackie Simpson. Alex is attracted to Kate Adams, a Department of Justice lawyer and part-time bartender. The author also shows us a group of Muslims, led by mercenary Captain Jack, making preparations in Brennan, Pennsylvania, a town the President and his intelligence czar will soon visit.

Though events start slowly, Baldacci soon pulls the strings that tie these threads together. The action ends up hot and heavy, involving Alex, Kate and Camel Club members in a gripping plot that's both convoluted and surprising. Conspiracies within conspiracies involve Washington insiders, terrorists, North Koreans, a misguided, larger than life idealist, and a race against time to prevent a nuclear holocaust. The Camel Club is another exciting treat for Baldacci fans.

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