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Who spies this spy

Baldacci’s storytelling hits the mark, as usual

By Matthew J. Meyer

For The Free Lance-Star

AN UNLIKELY  pair are  inked as the protagonists in David Baldacci’s new novel, “The Innocent.”  They are seemingly different from each other in every way except for one—a common intent to evade death.

Forty-year-old Will Robie is a professional assassin whose paycheck is signed by Uncle Sam. Accustomed to orders that take him around the globe, this time he’s tapped for a hit in his hometown, Washington, D.C.

What makes this assignment different from any other, though, is that from the moment Robie enters the apartment of his female target to make the hit, his instincts tell him something is off.

For one thing, the woman should not have had a child with her. The apartment is clearly a home, with toys. As he backs away, unwilling to make the hit on a woman who is clutching her child in her arms, a shot comes through the window, sending a bullet through the heads of both.

Robie then realizes that the shooter, the mission’s backup sniper, has actually been waiting to take him out, too—a hit man sent to take out the hit man. As he leaves the scene he rifles through the woman’s purse and sees among the papers her government ID,

a fact that was not on his briefing papers.

Still stunned that he is a target, too, he executes his prearranged escape plan, taking  a seat on a midnight express bus to New York City.

He doesn’t know his path will now cross that of a young teenage girl named Julie—gifted, street-smart  and a product of the foster care system—who has just witnessed the murder of her parents, former addicts.

In fact, these two have  similarities: Both have walled off their emotions in order to survive and both are keenly analytical and self-directed.

As he sits in the back of the bus, Robie sees someone attempting to strangle Julie in her seat.  He intervenes and they both jump off during the unscheduled stop the commotion causes.  A few seconds later the bus  explodes, killing everyone left on board.

Thus begins a typically complex Baldacci tale.  Julie is people-wise beyond her years and Robie will find his own invulnerability tested as the two become mutually involved in a plot they don’t yet  understand.  Both use their formidable awareness of people and distrust of others’ motives to survive.  Can they trust each other and other members of “the system” whose help they need?

So begins another action tale of espionage and betrayal from a master storyteller.

Baldacci brings his unusual, distinctive skill in character development to portray people who seem very real, with a degree of unpredictability that advances this very clever plot.

Matthew J. Meyer is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania County.

THE INNOCENT        

By David Baldacci

(Grand Central, $27.95,  432 pp.)

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/books/2012/04/29/who-spies-this-spy/

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