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

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

David Baldacci's engagingly ragtag crew of aging conspiracy theorists and misfits - introduced in The Camel Club and back for an encore in The Collectors - returns once more in Stone Cold. Led by sixty-ish cemetery caretaker and ex-government assassin John Carr (aka Oliver Stone), they continue to seek the truth wherever it can be found - and truth is a scarce commodity in Washington, D.C..

Other than Stone, Camel Club members include: librarian Caleb Shaw; Vietnam vet Reuben Rhodes; genius Milton Farb; veteran Secret Service agent Alex Ford; and brilliant con artist Annabelle Conroy (Alex was made an honorary member after the club's first adventure and Annabelle after their second). As this episode opens, Annabelle discovers that one of the team she used to con forty million dollars from Atlantic City casino boss Jerry Bagger has been found by the latter and left brain dead. Bagger is on her trail. When Stone finds out about it, he rallies Camel Club members to help her.

In parallel with Bagger's obsessive search for Annabelle, readers are introduced to thirty-something family man, Harry Finn, doing his job - 'testing the security strength of both government and sensitive private facilities around the country' - and carrying out a series of carefully planned executions on the side, for reasons of his own. In both cases, his exploits are worthy of a James Bond movie. Harry's victims turn out to be agents with whom Stone worked in his own shady past - and Stone's slippery ex-boss Carter Gray informs him that they too are on the executioner's list.

So Gray hunts Finn, Finn hunts Gray and Stone, Bagger hunts Annabelle, Annabelle plans an ultimate con to end his threat to her, while Stone tries to keep all the good guys alive and take out the villains, as only he - and perhaps his younger persona, Finn - can do. Sadly, not all the good guys make it this time, leaving fans with a big question mark about the future of this highly entertaining, action-packed series.

2nd Review by Tim Davis:

Well, fans of David Baldacci, the third novel in the popular Camel Club series has finally arrived in bookstores, and you will certainly want to be among the first to find out what the so-called club is up to this time. You will not be disappointed!

Following its hard-to-beat predecessors, The Camel Club and The Collectors, Baldacci's Stone Cold delivers more top-notch, fast-paced thriller entertainment, and revenge, secrecy, suspense, and murder are the key words as the complex and compelling plot unfolds.

Annabelle Conroy is a young woman whose family was destroyed long ago by a murderously unprincipled casino tycoon. She had begun to take her revenge and was chalking up some remarkable success (to the tune of $40 million taken from the businessman), but her plan seems to have suddenly backfired, and the brilliant con-artist Annabelle now finds herself in extreme danger. Seeking help and advice, she confides in her enigmatic though resourceful friend, Oliver Stone, a man who works as a cemetery caretaker in the Washington, D.C. area.

Meanwhile, suburban family man Harry Finn, a person motivated by revenge and a dangerous secret, is determined to eliminate six former CIA operatives. Finn covertly completes half of his appointed task, and now - because of high-level government interest in what has been happening - the former CIA intelligence chief quietly apprises Stone.

Now Stone and the three members of the eclectic and experienced group that calls itself the Camel Club are poised to spring into action on two fronts. Having been involved in super-secret CIA missions in the past, Stone reluctantly involves himself again in an extremely dangerous, high-stakes game of cat and mouse.

However, Stone soon discovers that dealing with Annabelle's nemesis will be a nearly insurmountable problem, the renegade assassin will be more dangerous than originally believed, and the solution there may even involve revealing Cold War secrets and international crimes at the highest imaginable levels.

Stone Cold is a powerful portrait of the Camel Club and people whose lives are built 'on lies, deception, and swift, violent death,' and some of those characters have rather questionable motives as their 'sole justification.' Never dull and consistently provocative, Baldacci's action-packed novel is frightening, especially when one stops to think about the absolutely realistic possibility that is at the heart of the novel's premise.

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