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Divine Justice (Camel Club) Hardcover – November 4, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Near the start of bestseller Baldacci's less than compelling fourth Camel Club thriller (after Stone Cold), former CIA assassin Oliver Stone (aka John Carr) boards a New Orleans–bound train at Washington's Union Station after shooting to death a well-known U.S. senator and the nation's intelligence chief, the two men responsible for his wife's murder. Ever the Good Samaritan, Stone intervenes in a fight on the train, but when the Amtrak conductor asks to see his ID, he gets off at the next station, knowing his fake ID won't withstand scrutiny. So much for Stone's vaunted ability as a resourceful planner. This sudden detour takes Stone to Divine, Va., a mining town where he becomes enmeshed in corruption and intrigue—and falls, in just one of several clichéd situations, for an attractive if beleaguered widow. Series fans should be satisfied, but this effort lacks the imagination that distinguished Baldacci's debut, Absolute Power (1996). (Nov.)
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*Starred Review* Readers who have been holding their breath since the end of Stone Cold (2007), the previous Camel Club novel, can inhale: Oliver Stone did survive his plunge into the water. For the uninitiated, Baldacci’s Oliver Stone isn’t the noted film director; he’s a former government assassin who has made a risky living foiling government conspiracies. Now, having eluded capture after committing a pair of necessary assassinations, Stone (or John Carr, if you prefer to use his real name) is on the run, hiding out in rural America, where he discovers that small-town intrigue is at least as intricate and dangerous as anything he’s come up against previously. Combining the Camel Club series’ wit and fast pace with a Fugitive-like story (casting Stone as Richard Kimble, the man on the run who risks his life to protect the lives of strangers), Baldacci shows once again that he is a sort of thriller Renaissance man: a master of plot, dialogue, and character. It’s fascinating to observe how Stone operates when he’s entirely on his own, too. Not only is he evading his pursuers, especially Macklin Hayes, whose obsessive determination to capture Stone may be based more on personal reasons than professional ones, but he’s also cast himself adrift from his comrades, who are working feverishly behind the scenes to find him and keep him safe. A rousing success, although this should come as no surprise to faithful Baldacci readers. --David Pitt
Top Customer Reviews
The heroes of The Camel Club return their latest adventure, one which may be their last. The action puts all of them into jeopardy, and they find themselves in a series of desperate situations. There is a nation wide manhunt for Oliver Stone, who flees to a small town, only to find himself immersed in anther dangerous mystery there.
The main characters, Oliver Stone and Joe Knox, are flawed but understandable characters, men who don't always do the right thing, but try to act according to their principles. You get to hear their thoughts as one hunts the other, and I found myself caring about both of them, even though they were headed for an inevitable show-down. This element heightens the tension in the story, and made it hard to put the book down. Making Stone seem sympathetic to new readers was a considerable feat for Baldacci, after his main character executes a US senator and the "Head of Intelligence" in the first chapter. Both men admit to themselves that they have broken laws along the way, and they are troubled individuals. The fact that they are often more threatened by their own people than by the bad guys makes the story difficult to put down.
In a rare moment of agreement with Publisher's Weekly, I must admit that this is not Balducci's best effort. Nevertheless, his characters are believable and sympathetic, the action never slows, and the book will hold your interest to the last page. Balducci's lesser novels are better than many author's best.
The Camel Club was an interesting diversion for Baldacci, the books started off very light and then got darker as the series progressed. I would not recommend Divine Justice unless you have read the previous novels in the series.
This starts off with our hero John Carr (aka Oliver Stone) on the run having taken out two senior US officials (who were bad guys). A manhunt is underway and Carr is looking for somewhere to disappear when he gets involved in a fracas and ends up in Divine, a small town which is hiding a lot of secrets. Does he keep his head down or does he get involved?
Meanwhile tenacious CIA tracker Joe Knox is on his trail and getting closer, as are Carr's friends from the Camel Club who want to help their friend....
As other reviewers have mentioned much of this did remind me of Lee Child's latest (Nothing To Lose) where his hero Reacher ends up in a small town called Despair which also has many secrets.
This ends up as a hit and miss book, the Joe Knox and Camel Club elements are the most interesting but the stuff in Divine was so similar to Lee Child's latest that it really did jar and the scenario around the bad guys felt too contrived.
In a word (and, of course, in my own humble opinion, "Divine Justice" stinks.
Baldacci has ridden his "Oliver Stone" (a/k/a Vietnam war hero and CIA assassin John Carr) character more or less sucessfully through three prior installments.
Oliver Stone has a past shrouded in mystery, more or less, as he camped out in Lafayette Park across from the White House for years demanding "truth". He assembled a band of, more or less, misfits around him who call themselves "The Camel Club" who, more or less, solve major mysteries or prevent this and that, like the kidnapping of the President or the takeover of the nation by a kook who wants to start a new world war. Barely believable, but Baldacci has, more or less, pulled it off successfully in the past.
This time, however, Baldacci falls on his face.
Oliver Stone needs to get out of Washington. He has, after all, just shot and killed a US Senator and a former CIA Director. (Not a spoiler: that was the ending of the last book.)
So Stone nee Carr, the master Special Forces guy takes an Amtrak train from Washington to New Orleans. His use of Amtrak becomes important later in the story at a point where Baldacci has long lost any ability to convince the reader. Here's this super hotshot guy getting away from a crime scene by riding Amtrak. No, it doesn't make any sense - and soon makes even less.
Stone steps in to rescue a young man who is being beaten on the train by three toughs. Sure, Stone is twice, almost three times the age of the three roughnecks, but he takes them out one, two, three. Sure, every former CIA assassin knowing he is fleeing the scene of two spectacular murders is going to take an Amtrak train - and then make a public spectacle of himself on said train.
Anyway, Stone and the young man leave the train in a desolate part of Virginia and make their way to the young man's home town, Divine.
At this point, I got the impression that Baldacci was channeling Lee Child, the author of the very successful Jack Reacher series; Upton Sinclair, a muckraker from decades ago and the vaucous noisemakers on the left-wing. Baldacci has played out the Vietnam vet thing as far as it could go and then some. His views on imaginary current government policies are yawners.
In a nutshell, Divine is a coal mining town where the men are condemned to livesa of virtual servitude in the mines, where they all eventually die or contract terminal illnesses, or the supermax prison conveniently built on top of a collapsed mine. Oh by the way, lots of the miners are drug addicts too. Hint, hint.
There has been a rash of untimely deaths in the town, but the one man police force consisting of strong, handsome Lincoln Tyree - whose brother is the warden of the supermax hasn't found out much them.
Back in Washington, the evil Macklin Hayes, who is missing only the twirled mustache of the cartoon like silent film villains, sics superstar CIA tracker Joe Knox on the trail of super assassin Stone/Carr.
The story quickly becomes unbeleivable. The misfits of The Camel Club become involved and start tracking Knox who is tracking Stone and is, in turn, being tracked by Macklin. Stone, meanwhile, is saving one person after another from gruesome deaths, except when the people are killed. Quite a show for a murderer on the run, but Stone/Carr is really a good guy.
The plot quickly turns ludicrous. The writing isn't bad: just the plot and characters are unbelievable. Totally unbelievable. Events soon become preposterous.
Like I said, Baldacci must have some pressing debts or wants to get out of his contract with his publisher or something. Maybe he has just let his previously justified fame go to his head. Who knows?
In any event, fans of the prior Camel Club novels are likely to be disappointed. I certainly was.
The book opens with the hero jumping off a cliff (after whacking a high profile target) into very cold water and swimming to safety. He's now on the run from a evil military General who has "abused" him since he was a young soldier (war hero with no medals)in Vietnam.
Oliver ends up in Divine a small coal mining town with a drug "problem" where we get another evil character who loves to torture people in his hell hole crib.
The ending's beyond belief for an adult, but kids may buy it.
Like too many best selling author's their newer novels ain't in the same league with their older (career building) stuff. Just make more money off your NAME, not the quality of your words pen'd on paper!