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Review: Zero Day (By David Baldacci)

Hey there! Starting the year off with some David Baldacci and a whole new style of review! Read on and let me know in the comments what other books you’d like to see dissected this way (or just say Hi!).

Oh and… Happy, Happy New Year!

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Source: Goodreads

Genre: Thriller

Length: 434 pages

Blurb:

War hero and brilliant US Army CID investigator, John Puller, gets sent on a solo mission to investigate four gruesome murders in the remote town of Drake, West Virginia. He works with local Police Chief, Samantha Cole, delving into a mystery that only deepens with every answer. Now, it’s up to Puller and Cole to solve the puzzle behind the increasing number of murders in a case that has greater implications and risks than either of them could have ever imagined.

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10

Plot: 7 out of 10

Characterization: 8 out of 10

Primary Element: 6 out of 10 for its ‘Thrill’ factor

Writing Style: 9 out of 10

Part of a Series?

Zero Day is the first book of Baldacci’s John Puller series. It would be best to start from here to get a good grasp of Puller, his background, and what makes him tick.

Highlighted Takeaway:

John Puller – the book is all about him, and his hard as nails but ideal within character and personality make that focus well worth it.

What I Liked:

Baldacci does not shy away from showcasing his main character’s strengths but also shows his vulnerability, which makes him a lot easier to relate with.

What I Didn’t Like:

Samantha Cole’s character gets a bit too subdued over the course of the book, losing a lot of its edge in Puller’s shadow.

Who Should Read:

  • Those who enjoy Baldacci’s work
  • Fans of the Amos Decker series
  • Anyone looking for a well-layered, complex plot-based book

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who gets queasy easily, because there is a good chunk of violence in Zero Day.

Read It For:

  • its complex, layered storyline
  • an intriguing and very likable hero
  • Baldacci’s style finesse (which made him the success he is)

Want me to include any additional elements in this new review format? Let me know in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: The Fallen (By David Baldacci)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 420 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Amos Decker doesn’t want to take a vacation. But when his boss forces him to take a break before he risks burning out, he takes up his partner on her offer to travel to the quiet town of Baronville. The only thing on the agenda is to spend a relaxing time with Alex Jamison’s sister and brother-in-law, and to celebrate her niece’s upcoming birthday. But when a spark in the neighboring house catches Decker’s eye on the first night there, he rushes to help. And stumbles onto two bodies. When he discovers that they weren’t the first murders in the town, Decker is compelled to investigate. Soon, he finds that the small town of Baronville is hiding a large secret. As Jamison and Decker take on the case of six bizarre murders, their relaxing vacation turns into a fight for their lives. Someone does not want them finding out the truth, and they’re willing to kill anyone who gets too close. And this time, the Memory Man’s skills may not be enough to overcome the unseen forces that are threatening him, his partner, and everyone close to them, before it’s too late.

The Bottom Line:

Another thrilling ride in the Amos Decker series, The Fallen is packed with an odd but complimentary mix of violence, emotion, and a whole lot of character development.

My take:

The most notable thing about The Fallen is that it has the largest character arc development in the entire series. While this is true for all the characters of this particular franchise, it is especially so for Amos Decker.

The memory man is not the same person we met in the Memory Man. While the next two books in the series show us more about him, and his inability and desire to be more social, The Fallen is where that journey culminates. And, more importantly, where we see what Decker could be like should he actually develop the social niceties that are missing from his personality. It sort of makes you think about what will happen if what you’ve wanted from Decker’s personality would actually come true – and whether you’d be happy about it at all.

Story-wise, The Fallen is one of Baldacci’s most layered works. I’ve read a lot of Baldacci’s books and have come to expect some things from them, which leaves little room for being caught off-guard. But The Fallen still manages to surprise.

It’s a multi-faceted story that is complicated enough to keep you guessing, but not so complicated that it becomes tough to follow. It also moves really fast, jumping from one angle to another to keep you turning the pages. It’s an action-packed read that hits the ground running.

The Fallen is also surprisingly emotional at times. And although you’d expect this to conflict heavily with the fact that it has much more violence and gore than you’d have assumed, the contrasting approaches come together really well.

The book meets (and also exceeds) expectations of readers following the Amos Decker series. It is slightly better than its predecessor, and sets the tone really well for the next installment (I’m assuming and hoping that this isn’t the last one). I would rate the books in the entire series, thus far, as follows:

  1. The Memory Man (you can check out my review here)
  2. The Fallen
  3. The Last Mile (you can check out my review here)
  4. The Fix (you can check out my review here)

So, should you read The Fallen? Yes, if:

  • you like crime fiction
  • you want to continue on Decker’s journey or even try him out as a new series hero (this book can be read as a standalone but I would strongly recommend starting from the Memory Man)
  • you like David Baldacci’s work
  • you like multi-plot stories

Drop a comment below to share your thoughts on Baldacci’s work, The Fallen, or even just to say Hi!

– Rishika

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Review: The Innocent (By David Baldacci)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 422 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Government assassin, Will Robie, returns from two successful assignments in Tangier and Edinburgh to find that his next target is right in his home city – a government employee who needs to be eliminated for an unknown reason. But on the day, faced by the young woman he’s meant to kill and the child that’s holding on to her, Robie, for the first time in his life, hesitates. Before he realizes his mistake, a secondary shooter kills both mother and child. Robie manages to escape in spite of his handler leading him to the second shooter, and imminent death. Putting his personal escape plan into action, he heads to the bus station to get on the next bus to New York with a ticket booked earlier under an alias.

Fourteen-year-old Julie Getty has been forced into the foster care system due to a recurring drug problem faced by parents who have made numerous attempts to turn clean. When she receives a note from her mother stating that they want to make a new start as a family, Julie runs away from her foster home. Returning to her own house, she sees her parents being murdered by a lone killer. She manages to escape and heads to the bus station, coincidentally getting on the same bus as Robie in an attempt to leave town.

But the killer follows her on board. Robie stops him before he finishes his mission. Moments later, Robie and Julie get off the bus. And the bus is blown to smithereens. Unsure of who between them the target was, Robie feels compelled to protect Julie. But his plans to help Julie and save himself are brought to an abrupt halt when he’s called back in by his department to liaise with the FBI on the assassination-gone-wrong, and discover who had set him up. Now, Robie is working with FBI Special Agent Nicole Vance on a crime at which he’d been present. He knows that, somehow, everything is connected. Only by discovering how can Robie prove his innocence and save lives… including Vance’s, Julie’s, and his own. But, to do that, Robie needs to identify who he can really trust. Struggling to get to the truth in a web lies, Robie is running out of time. He needs to get to the bottom of things before Vance uncovers his real profession and the role he really played in the events of the night, and before more people around him are killed.

The Bottom Line:

A typical Baldacci political-crime-conspiracy-thriller that takes an oddly analytic look at assassinations and murder, and that introduces a hero with lots of potential.

My take:

The Innocent is a typical Baldacci book – it’s got the political angle, it’s got a hero who has a unique moral compass, and it’s got the crime thriller angle that keeps the pages turning. The story is complicated enough to be interesting and stops just short of becoming down-right confusing.

As expected from Baldacci’s work, the most intriguing aspect of The Innocent is the new hero it introduces. Will Robie is intrinsically a good guy with exceptional skills, and he’s an assassin for his government. He is a man trained to kill, he’s good at it, and he feels no remorse about his profession. The book often touches upon the concept of good vs. evil, and the reality that humans (even those like Robie) are essentially not one or the other. As a character, he is definitely interesting and, although I didn’t find the book as good as others by Baldacci, I definitely want to follow Robie’s development.

One thing that really stands out is the bluntness of the violence. It isn’t gory nor exaggerated in any way. It is oddly calculated. When Robie eliminates a target or sees someone dead, he perceives and analyses it with the strangest simplicity, practicality, and mundaneness. He does not think of life as cheap, as is made very evident. But the coldness with which he looks at death definitely adds a lot to his characterization.

The only downside, if I had to choose, is that the story was good, but could have been much better. It has a lot of build-up but ends up being slightly anticlimactic – not in delivery, but in the story itself. Maybe a couple of pages more about how the many different angles came together, and why, would have made the story more compelling, and consequently more fulfilling.

Should you read The Innocent? It doesn’t have to be the first David Baldacci you pick up, but it’s definitely one that should be on the list, even if it makes an appearance slightly later. Recommended to:

  • fans of David Baldacci
  • political-conspiracy-crim-fiction lovers looking for a new series
  • anyone who wants to read a fast-paced, slightly-complicated crime fiction

Read The Innocent or any other Baldacci books? Share your thoughts on Will Robie or whoever your favorite Baldacci character is in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

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Review: The Fix (By David Baldacci)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 428 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Amos Decker, the man who forgets nothing and who has just about managed to bring his life back on track, is walking along outside the FBI Headquarters. In front of him is Walter Dabney, a well-respected family man, and patriot who has built a successful business consulting on government projects. Everything seems normal. Until Dabney shoots Anne Berkshire, a high school substitute teacher in the head, and then himself.

The special FBI team of which Decker is a part is assigned the case. But they can find no connection between the killer and victim. And yet Decker can’t believe that anything about the shooting was random. Then Agent Harper Brown of the Defense Intelligence Agency orders Decker and his team off the case; the murder is part of an ongoing DIA investigation for which they aren’t cleared and which has now become an urgent matter of national security.

Unfortunately for Brown, Decker doesn’t care about rules. He only cares about finding the truth. Forced into a shaky alliance, Decker, his team, and Brown work against the clock to discover the truth behind the shooting and the connection between Dabney and Berkshire. The right steps will help them save the nation from an impending attack of unprecedented proportions. A wrong or delayed step leaves the nation vulnerable to an unknown but dangerous and armed enemy. Time and luck are against them; and this time, even Decker’s famous abilities may not be enough to solve the case.

The Bottom Line:

A compelling read that keeps you turning more for the combination of individual story and continuing (personal) story arc than just the story of Dabney and Berkshire themselves.

My review:

The Fix is the third book in the Amos Decker series. And it’s as good as its prequels. For more info on those, check out my review of Memory Man here, and The Last Mile here.

As with many of Baldacci’s works, The Fix takes a seemingly isolated incident and merges it with matters national and political angles. The book tackles the mystery of why Dabney killed Berkshire really well, slowly developing one angle into an elaborate story with an interesting political angle.

The characters are well fleshed out. They are very real, their human-ness being at the very core of everything that happens, and yet being something that isn’t made very obvious. That is what allows the story to unfold in the way that it does – the randomness and unpredictability that is inherent in people. And, this is more shown than told, making it seem all the more relatable.

The Fix introduces us to some new characters and re-introduces us to old ones too. One of the most appealing parts of the book was the development of the relationships between the characters, with each one really coming into their own. There is inevitable conflict, but there is also growth achieved by accepting and showcasing both vulnerabilities and strengths.

At the center of it all lies Amos Decker. A haunted hero if there ever was one, Decker is one of my favorite Baldacci characters. It can sometimes get annoying as to how much people expect from him. Or how much he takes on himself. But as the characters grow, the reasoning for this is also depicted. And it makes things a lot easier to understand and accept. In fact, it manages to give you new insight into a character who you may have considered easy to figure out, a character who can be painfully simply and oddly complex at the same time. But all within reason.

Overall, The Fix shows a lot of development in the arc continued across the series. The individual story is also very interesting. It does come across as a bit over the top at times. In retrospect, I realize that it’s not really about those seemingly fantastic parts. The story is about repercussions. And as a whole, it plays out well and makes for a difficult-to-put-down read.

I’d recommend The Fix to:

  • fans of Baldacci (this has enough background to be a standalone, but you may have a better experience if you read Memory Man and The Last Mile first)
  • anyone interested in getting started on a new series (The Amos Decker one is interesting, to say the least)
  • fans of political thrillers and crime fiction

Let us know what you thought about The Fix and why you love or hate Baldacci and/or Amos Decker. Shout out in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Review: The Width of the World (By David Baldacci)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 455 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Vega Jane, her best friend Delph, her dog Harry Two, and their new companion Petra Sonnet finally escape the Quag and its nightmare experience. But the place they end up in is much worse. Monsters don’t roam the peaceful streets. Instead, the people of the town they’re in are blissfully happy. When Vega Jane and her friends dig a little deeper, they discover that those very people are unaware of their true lives – their memories have been taken away, their lives erased, and their existences left as little more than blissful enslavement. The desire to help them and discover the reality behind all the lies she’s been told all her life drives Vega Jane to investigate what is happening in the strange town. But it isn’t going to be that easy. Danger lies at every turn; and the enemies against whom the people of Wormwood were protected by the Quag, the enemies that were little more than legend, suddenly become very real. History is about to repeat itself. War is inevitable. And Vega Jane is at the helm of it all. But how can she win a war that even her very powerful ancestors had lost, so many centuries ago? Can she find a way to face the enemy, when she has almost no hope of victory… or even survival?

The Bottom Line:

An entertaining read that is more similar in pace, style, and intrigue to the first part of the series than the less impressive second part.

My review:

The Width of the World is Book Three in the Vega Jane and The Finisher series. It is almost as good as the first book in the series, which has thus far been the best. It has similar elements of intrigue, fantasy, and the reckless but good-hearted actions of a very determined heroine.

It is fast paced and keeps you turning the pages, keen to know what happens next. It also brings together a lot of aspects of the first two books, tying many things up quite neatly. At the same time, it offers enough suspense and intrigue to mimic what the first book had achieved and take you into an interesting fantasy world.

A lot of the childishness that was existent in Book Two is, thankfully, missing from The Width of the World. There are childish elements, but there are also clear indicators that the characters are growing up, with the responsibilities they carry gaining prominence and the childishness diminishing. That growth is actually very refreshing and fits well with the storyline too.

The story itself is quite interesting and adds quite a few new angles to the fantasy world that Baldacci has built. It’s not the most unique of worlds, but definitely has its charms, making for an immersive read.

The book does have some problem areas though; one of the biggest ones being the parts where the otherwise very likable Vega Jane seemed a little too self-absorbed and obnoxious. She began to take herself a little too seriously as the leader whereas, until now, she had the utmost faith in her comrades. She definitely needed to be the leader, but there were times where her approach to the role didn’t seem to fit in with the character we’d seen until then.

In spite of its pace, the book does come across as a bit too long. There are sections – of introspection mainly – that could have been cut down. If it had been a finale, the length could be explained and even understood. But (and this really caught me by surprise) it isn’t the end of what I’d assumed to be a trilogy. It is more of a ‘preparation for the end’ kind of story. And definitely too long for that.

All in all, the book manages to keep you intrigued about the story of Vega Jane and its many other characters. It definitely keeps you interested enough to want to read the next book (whenever that may release). I’d recommend it to:

  • fans of young adult (young and adult, alike)
  • anyone looking for a quick read in the young adult genre (be prepared for some childishness)
  • anyone interested in fantasy (and doesn’t mind a little teenage drama)

Read, liked, or hated The Width of the World? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Review: The Last Mile (By David Baldacci)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 417 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Melvin Mars was a twenty-year-old football star with a promising NFL career before him. But fate had other plans. Convicted for the gruesome murder of his parents, he spends twenty years in jail on Death Row. Except, minutes before his execution, another man confesses to the killings. The case hits too close to home for Amos Decker, now on the way to begin the next phase of his life as a part of a special team of the FBI. He convinces his team to take up Mars’ case. But the case is far from being simple.

As the investigation deepens, Decker finds himself in an intricately designed web of deceit, whose roots lie in a time of American history that most people want to forget. But that isn’t easy for the Memory Man. Decker refuses to back down even as he faces enemies at the highest levels of power who will do anything it takes to keep the truth from surfacing. Committed to finding the truth, Decker finds his new career, his life, and the lives of those he has grown to care about, threatened. Now, Decker can only hope that his unique talents and his team’s persistence are enough to solve the case, even if that means changing his and Mars’ lives forever.

My take:

Amos Decker returns in The Last Mile and becomes part of another great read by David Baldacci.

The book covers many sensitive topics including racism and hate crimes. At the same time, it shows the progression of thought that has led to better times, while also depicting the lack of that advancement in some cases. It derives from very real times and makes for great fiction.

You revisit the characters from Memory Man and find new ones – all of whom manage to make their mark. The progress of the characters is shown really well, especially that of Amos Decker. You learn more about the effects of his conditions and watch him try and fit into the new life he has, with the past having concluded as much as it possibly could for him. You also get to see the development of his relationship with the people he works with, and of his team as a whole, all of which makes every character seem familiar and known. But the primary focus remains on Decker and Mars, and their most unlikely of relationships.

Baldacci made a great protagonist in Amos Decker – he’s likable, easy to associate with in spite of his unique personality, and really pulls you in with his perseverance of the truth. Although wired in a complicated manner, Decker is oddly simple and straightforward, making you wish that you (and others) could be like him – where the only thing that matters is how things really are, and not how they’re convoluted or manipulated to be. Decker drives the entire plot and story, and although you do end up wishing for more participation from the others, the story moves ahead relentlessly.

The Last Mile has good suspense, amazing twists, an intriguing story line, and an insight into the best and worst of human beings. It doesn’t try to put things and people into how they should be, but just into how they are – and that means accepting that people can be good and bad, sometimes at the same time. The book is an edge of the seat read, leaving you turning page after page, and keeping you hooked from the get-go. Unsurprisingly, it matches its prequel in impact and enjoyment, and leaves you wanting to read more of Baldacci’s work. I’m definitely going to be reading the third in the Decker series sometime soon. And also picking up the other Baldacci books in my TBR pile.

Recommended to:

  • thriller aficionados
  • crime fiction lovers
  • fans of crime and thriller novels with a multi-angle approach that are more than a whodunit

Let us know what you thought of The Last Mile and this review in the comments below!

– Rishika

PS: If you haven’t read any of the Decker books yet, you should probably start with Memory Man. My review here tells you what to expect from the first book of the series.

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Review: Memory Man (By David Baldacci)

 

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Source: Pan Macmillan

 

Length: 403 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

An injury suffered during his first professional game ended Amos Decker’s football career before it had a chance to begin. It also gave him the incredible ability to never forget anything. The ability was a gift for twenty years as it made him the great cop and Detective he was. But the day he returned home to find his wife and daughter murdered, that gift turned into a curse. The killer was never caught and the motive remained unknown.

Unable to forget any detail of the night, Decker lost everything and wound up homeless on the streets of Burlington. Sixteen months after the incident, he’d barely picked himself up, taking up a few jobs as a PI, when his old partner tells him that a man has confessed to the murder of his wife and child. Decker barely has a chance to come to terms with the news when tragedy strikes the town yet again. The local high school is attacked by a shooter. Teenagers are shot dead, and the killer slips away. The cops enlist Decker’s help because they believe that his ability could help them. But as the investigation progresses, the cops, FBI, and Decker discover that the shootings were related to the murder of sixteen months ago. And Decker is at the center of a dangerous game orchestrated by a killer who’s not done with his list yet.

My take:

Memory Man has been on my to-read list for a while now. And now I’m wondering why exactly I hadn’t picked it up sooner.

Like with all of Baldacci’s work, Memory Man is a complex story with numerous angles that are interwoven masterfully. The story isn’t your run-of-the-mill vengeance thriller. It’s more complex, deeper, and plays over a much larger picture. Interesting twists, some predictable but more not so, keep you turning the pages furiously. It touches upon conditions such as hyperthymesia and the information (while mostly molded to suit the requirements of the story) is presented in a way that gives you great insight into what the persons who may have such conditions actually go through.

What I loved about the book, though, was not its story, but its characters. Memory Man has complex characters that have a number of layers. Each character holds its own and pulls you into his or her story – this is equally true of the protagonist and antagonist, and evreryone else too. Baldacci doesn’t paint a hero versus villain story. He tells the story of people who are simply human and who have been shaped into whatever they are by the events of their life. He shows how empathy, anger, hatred, and love may never be found where most required and anticipated, and yet may be existent where least expected. And he tells the story of people so realistically that a part of you is forced to wonder whether human beings are really human at all.

The story moves along briskly, with no breathers. You’ll be turning pages long into the night because it is difficult to put Memory Man down. And at the end of it, what stays with you is not the story, but the complicated and deep characters that made it. To wrap up, all I can say is that I’ve read only his young adult work recently, and I am so very glad that I picked up Memory Man. It’s more along the lines of what I’ve always loved about Baldacci’s story-telling prowess and made me realize just how much I missed reading his books.

Don’t miss out on Memory Man if you:

  • have enjoyed any of Baldacci’s previous work (it’s one of his better ones)
  • like intricately designed and neatly interwoven thrillers/mysteries with numerous angles
  • want to try out Baldacci for the first time (it’s a great place to start)

Have you read Memory Man? Let us know what you thought about it in the comments below.

P.S: I think this could make a good movie. What do you think?

– Rishika

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