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Simple Genius    by David Baldacci order for
Simple Genius
by David Baldacci
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Simple Genius, David Baldacci sends his daring duo, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, into another anti-establishment adventure, filled with thrills, spills - and attitude to spare.

It begins with Michelle's inexplicable implosion and arrest, after which Sean persuades her into a voluntary commitment in a private clinic. There, while Sean's old friend, psychologist Horatio Barnes (who's specialized in helping federal law enforcement agents) delves into Michelle's past, she finds occupation in uncovering a drug ring and saving a fellow inmate's life. The cost of cleaning up Michelle's mess and paying for her treatment drives Sean to a last resort, seeking employment from his lovely, lethal ex-lover Joan Dillinger - she and Michelle have a mutual hate-hate relationship - who's now vice-president of a big PI firm.

Joan dispatches Sean to Babbage Town, Virginia, a quasi-think tank just across the river from Camp Peary, an ultra-secret CIA training camp situated next to a naval supply center and weapons station. There's been a suspicious death (on the CIA side) of Babbage Town physicist Monk Turing, whose research is 'worth countries going to war over.' Soon, a still volatile Michelle checks herself out of the clinic - against Horatio's advice - and joins Sean in Virginia. There she bonds with frightened young Viggie, Turing's savant daughter, whose confused mind may hold the key to unlock dangerous secrets.

There are more deaths, mysterious flights, a historical find, and a Middle Eastern connection. After shocking plot twists that yield surprising friends and foes, Sean and Michelle end up waging all out war - in Tidewater, Virginia. And, in a parallel plotline, Michelle's puzzling past unveils its secrets. In Simple Genius, in addition to a gripping thriller, Baldacci gives his multitude of fans fascinating insights into encryption and a hard look at collateral damage - in particular, how much is acceptable? - in the war against terrorism.

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