Review: David Baldacci – Simple Genius

Simple Genius (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #3)Simple Genius by David Baldacci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an unexpectedly satisfying book packed with intrigue, squirming with twists. A night-reader, I found myself looking forward to bedtime and then wanting to read into the wee small hours and on towards the dawn for wondering what Baldacci would come up with next. The work proved intelligent, though by no means intellectual. (For some reason I seem to be stumbling over many a reference to Alan Turing and Bletchley Park of late, both in my fiction and non-fiction reading – some code in the ether?) Overall, a most satisfying read.

Certainly I wished I’d read the first work(s) with Sean and Michelle by way of an introductory – we’re rather thrown in with Michelle’s suffering some post-traumatic stress from some unpleasantness to which Baldacci had previously subjected her, (the swine), and clearly her relationship with Sean is ‘in development’ – but that’s my fault for getting what I’m given and, in any case, this is a minor niggle. This is a work that can be read in its own right without need for the background, though I would recommend not diving in with this as your introductory to Sean and Michelle if you have the choice.

Sean and Michelle are sleuths, both with the requisite service background to give them the contacts for high-level cases, and this is high-level indeed bringing in the FBI, the CIA, cutting-edge technological research and, of course, murder, or there’d be nothing to investigate. (Has anyone ever attempted a detective novel based around a mysterious shoplifter, I wonder? If not, it needs to be written. No, not by you, by me, hands off). In this instance, the murder is that of a researcher on one side of the York River, with the other side of the river being fingered for the crime given the victim was found on their patch. Trouble is, ‘they’ happen to be the CIA, and ‘their patch’ a large area of land requisitioned for some ultra-high-top-top secret (++ and then some) security project, and they’re not inviting Sean and Michelle over for dinner and a postprandial snoop.

Along with that, you have Michelle’s psychological issues, (a surprisingly page-turning sub-plot in its own right); her catching a bad guy even while she’s undergoing treatment, conveniently hanging around the institution at which she stays being suitably unpleasant and untouchable until Michelle satisfyingly foils his scheme; an autistic child carefully, and as far as I can tell accurately, handled by Baldacci; a lost treasure thrown in in a seeming aside beyond providing a motivating factor for the our hapless late researcher; and so many other characters and bits and bobs that it’s surprising Baldacci could fit it all in. For that matter, in retrospect, it’s surprising it didn’t all get very confusing but it didn’t, so there.

Okay, the writing is a little sloppy at times. Many a phrase may have been better honed. Feed lines in dialogue are sometimes hammered rather than screwed into conversation. Baldacci travels a little far in his fetching of some of his plot in order for it all to hang together. A little more care and attention to such detail may have edged this review towards a rare (for me) five stars but these are, nonetheless, fairly minor issues.

A highly recommended work.

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