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This, Divine Justice, is the fourth book in the ongoing 'Camel Club' series written by Baldacci.
The Camel Club are a motley group of political activists, disgruntled government and ex government workers and general good buddies who take an interest in what's going on around them in the centres of power in Washington DC.
The group is led by Oliver Stone, who is actually an ex CIA assassin named John Carr who grew a conscience and retired, turning his skills towards assisting the country his own way (think Jason Bourne + 30 years). Other founding members who make an appearance here are Caleb Shaw, a rare books specialist working in the Library of Congress, and Reuben Rhodes, a huge powerful veteran of the Vietnam War and ex employee of the Defence Intelligence Agency.
Newer members in this book are Annabelle Conroy, an ex con-artist taken in by the Camel Club and assisted in the previous two books against mob boss Jerry Bagger, and Alex Ford, a Secret Service agent and friend to Oliver Stone.
This book was released in 2008 and due to the popularity of the 'Camel Club' series it flew directly to the top of the New York Times best-seller list!
Following on from the events at the end of the previous book (Stone Cold), Oliver Stone/John Carr decides to leave his old life and disappear forever. This makes the book unique to the series as the setting is now away from Washington DC, in Rural Virginia - a backwater town called Divine giving the book its name.
Once in Divine, despite wishing to disappear into the background and return to civilian life, Stone uncovers some strange goings-on and starts to unravel threads which will lead to a violent and disturbing conspiracy involving the whole town.
Meanwhile, a special task force dispatched by spymaster Macklin Hayes and led by ruthless bloodhound Joe Knox are on his trail with orders to shoot first and ask questions later!
On discovering the news that Stone is being hunted, back in Washington the remaining Camel Club members spring into action to track him down first and warn him of the threat against his life.
That's about the gist of the book, and I can't give much more away without posting spoilers!
Needless to say, it's a superb action thriller encompassing three separate storylines all on their own tangent and slowly coming together for a tremendous showdown.
Once I picked this book up and started reading, I couldn't put it down!
It's almost 400 pages long, and usually that would keep me occupied for a week or so, but I read this one in a day and a half as it just kept me turning pages!
Stones softened ex assassin is an enormously likeable character and we're genuinely concerned for his well-being despite him clearly hating himself for his past. Likewise Joe Knox, who is cast as the bad guy for most of the book, comes across as a decent man, and just one who is doing his job. I was dreading the inevitable showdown when only one of these good men can walk away.
The other Camel Club members don't have a great deal to do really, though their role is pivotal later on. Even so, the book feels like a good original idea that has been twisted a little bit to make it fit the 'Camel Club' mould.
What I mean is, this would have been a great stand-alone novel with entirely new characters. As a Camel Club book it didn't necessarily progress the series other than add maybe one new character of note.
Perhaps it was written as a Camel Club book as it was guaranteed to be a bestseller?
Perhaps that's just the cynic in me being unfair though, as Baldacci seems to hit the bestseller list with almost every book he puts out these days and is rightfully regarded as one of the best thriller and espionage writers of our time.
Generally speaking I can't criticise the writing style. Short punchy chapters assist with keeping track of the three story threads and the narrative flows wonderfully.
The ending is good but not great. As with a few other David Baldacci novels it feels slightly rushed. I won't give the story away, but it feels like a reasonable conclusion to the series and then book 5 came out 18 months later. Not that that's a terrible thing - I hope he writes lots more - but the ending of this one was a bit limp, especially after reading the half a paragraph of explaining away at the start of the sequel (Hells Corner).
As this was a book I couldn't put down and came away from feeling satisfied, I can't dock a star for the ending. Baldacci books do have their flaws, but they are thankfully small and he is still my favourite writer of the moment.
A five star review!
This is the concluding book in the cracking Camel Club series of novels. Just as fast paced as the previous three, David Baldacci proves that once again, he is the master of suspense and intrigue. This plot has Oliver Stone as the central character trying to protect his Camel Club friends while he goes on the run from his (justified?) crimes while trying to stay one step ahead of a vindictive three star General who has commissioned a black ops detective to track him down. Along the way, Stone ends up in a town called Divine which holds its own secrets and criminal activities that has Stone both confused and intrigued as he tries to help out the good guys. Sorting out the good from the bad isn't easy though! I liked the fact that after his very hard and sad life, Stone finally ends up with someone to love.