By David Baldacci
I think that I’ve mentioned this before, but just in case you’re not one of the 3 people that read this blog, including my mom (and yes, mom, it’s ok that you leave comments – my friends won’t mind), I generally read science fiction. So this is a departure. I re-read a Robert B. Parker novel recently, The Godwulf Manuscript, which got me to thinking. Maybe I should branch out a little bit and try something new, like police thrillers. I know, I’m really branching out here. One person’s mainstream is my great departure. OK, most people’s mainstream is my departure.
Spoiler Alert – I give away the ending, so if you haven’t read and would like to then now might be a good time to stop reading.
They get the bad guy.
Wow, that was fast.
That said, it is kind of how I felt about the novel in general. The author, the character, and the series, are very popular. The book has 5,783 comments on Amazon, and a rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. This compares to one of my favorite recent scifi novels, Old Man’s War, which has 1,611 comments and 4.4 stars. Clearly, the mainstream loves this book. And while I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel like it broke any new ground. And maybe that’s the point.
The story is about a special agent with the U.S. Army, a combat veteran who investigates crimes within the military. John Puller, six foot four 230 pounds, is called in to investigate the escape of a prisoner from Leavenworth. Turns out, it is Puller’s own brother, Bobby Puller, who escaped. John Puller is pulled in to investigate, despite the family ties, and teams up with a beautiful female agent to get the bad guys. There are Russian spies, femmes fatale, and weaponized Ebola virus.
I also recently read the first Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child, Killing Floor. It has 3,745 reviews on Amazon, and a rating of 4.2 stars. It is a thriller about an ex-military police investigator with the U.S. Army, a combat veteran who discovers that his brother is a victim of a crime. Reacher, six foot four 230 pounds, is pulled in because he was mistakenly ID-ed at the crime scene (he looks like his brother), and he teams up with a beautiful female police officer to get the bad guys. There is organized crime, counterfeit money, and corruption in the FBI.
The Russian spies and weaponized Ebola virus.should be enough to make the book as it is, but I kept wanting there to be more of a twist. Maybe that’s the scifi geek in me. I also wanted there to be more interesting turns of phrase, clever descriptions, and quirky character flaws. Instead, what I got was exposition, movie dialogue, and character with unshakable honor. With that, I think I understand. It seems that the thriller reader wants a movie with a strong jawed hero of unwavering integrity. And while I would prefer the interesting turns of phrase, clever descriptions, and flawed characters, I will probably read another Baldacci novel.