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The Simple Truth - David Baldacci

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Author: David Baldacci / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      03.07.2012 22:03
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      An excellent novel

      Review of The Simple Truth, a novel by David Baldacci. The book was published by Pan MacMillan Books, 514 pages, ISBN 978-0965068086. The cover price is £6.99 and the genre:- Thriller

      **The Plot**

      Conscripted at the time of the Vietnamese war, soldier Rufus Harms was jailed for the brutal killing of a young girl. After twenty-five years in prison, an auto-generated letter from the United States army is sent to Rufus Harm's brother. This letter throws new light on the events leading up to Rufus' case and his incarceration. Harms has never denied killing the school-girl, but what he does not know is why he carried out the crime, a crime that went against his nature. Harms is a gentle giant of a man. On the strength of the letter from Washington, Harms embarks on an appeal against his sentence.
      An ex- police officer turned criminal attorney, John Fiske, is drawn into the mystery surrounding Rufus Harms and his sentence. Fiske is puzzled when one by one, everyone who knows about the appeal is hunted down and killed. Harms brother and Fiske work together to try to solve the mystery, but they find that they too are in grave danger as are their families and loved ones.

      The novel follows the plot through the US legal and military systems. Missing military records, hushed up events and other suspicious dealings lead towards a startling outcome, an outcome that could have repercussions that could shake the whole of the United States military and legal systems.

      **My Thoughts and Conclusion**

      This novel is a real blockbuster in my opinion. The book is the fourth from David Baldacci, but was the first I have read. Having no preconceived expectations from the novel was a bonus for me as I came to the novel completely open minded.
      The author sets the scene remarkably well and the plot is extremely well crafted. The dialogue is crisply presented and the characterisation is excellent. I was particularly impressed at the way the author neatly dovetailed together the events his characters faced. I also liked the fact that the female lead characters were in no way typecast, as a rule a female lawyer is described as a feminist, a strong woman fighting to hold her own in a man's world. Baldacci has chosen to break this mould and his leading ladies are believable and ordinary. I also liked the central character of Rufus Harms and felt the man had been dealt a really raw deal.

      The authors style of writing is punchy and direct, there is no unnecessary padding, no superfluous characters and no gratuitous scenes whatsoever. I would liken the style to an early John Grisham or John Case novel, the plot is gripping, absorbing and has enough twists along the way to really keep the reader turning pages.
      This novel gets a 5* rating from me, I intend to look out for more from the author and would recommend the book to others who enjoy a solid thriller.
      Thank you for reading
      ©brittle1906 July 2012

      N.B. My reviews may be found on other sites under the same user name.

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        01.12.2009 09:06
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        An excellent enjoyable and worthwhile read.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~
        INTRODUCTION
        ~~~~~~~~~~~

        It's been a while since I have read a political or legal thriller worthy of the genre, particularly since John Grisham's output has become so formulaic and predictable in recent years. At a recent kid's birthday party, a friend overheard my less than complimentary remarks about Grisham's latest work and suggested that I check out David Baldacci instead.

        He was so keen to get me started that he loaned me a second-hand copy of one of the writer's earlier novels. Set free from the sense of entitlement often engendered by a book's price tag or created by a much-hyped author's pedigree, I got stuck in straight away despite the fact that I had two other novels on the go.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~
        BASIC DETAILS
        ~~~~~~~~~~~

        "The Simple Truth" is the fourth novel from prolific American author David Baldacci, whose 1996 debut "Absolute Power" was later made into a Hollywood film starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman. The book was first published in the USA by Warner Books in 1998 (the UK rights are owned by Pan Macmillan) and the paperback edition which is the subject of this review runs to around 500 pages. It is currently available new from Amazon for £5.46 (reduced from its £6.99) RRP, but you can get an excellent second hand copy for around £3.75 from www.greenmetropolis.com.

        ~~~~~~~
        SYNOPSIS
        ~~~~~~~

        Rufus Harms, a Vietnam draftee, is serving time in the stockade at Fort Jackson for the brutal murder of a young girl. When an automatically generated letter from the US Army is accidentally sent to his brother, fresh light is cast on the events of the fateful evening that led to his incarceration. In a bid to win his freedom and to be exonerated for a crime he believes he is not responsible for, Harms files an appeal with the highest court in the land - the United States Supreme Court.

        The appeal is intercepted by the brilliant, high-flying and workaholic Supreme Court clerk Michael Fiske, who, stunned by its contents - and the nature of the allegations it makes against some very powerful people - fatefully decides to investigate Harms' claims to ensure that there is some factual basis to them - but crucially, he does this before the appeal is entered into the official record.

        His well-meaning actions - ostensibly to ensure that the venerable institution of America's highest court is protected from unnecessary controversy - lead to dramatic and unforeseen consequences that ultimately draw his estranged brother, John Fiske, DC Detective Buford Chandler, FBI Special Agent Warren McKenna and the Supreme Court Justices themselves into a sordid web of intrigue.

        ~~~~~~~~
        THOUGHTS
        ~~~~~~~~

        The first few chapters set the scene by introducing us - one by one - to a few of the main characters. The book jumps back and forth between characters at the start as the separate strands are established, but all of these threads are necessary to weave the complex and intricate story that follows.

        Baldacci has a descriptive style that is fairly matter of fact. He manages to paint vivid pictures of people and places without being too flowery or engaging in unnecessary waffle. There is an economy to his writing that makes his storytelling punchy and compelling, and keeps the plot moving at a fair old clip. His characters are given just enough depth for you to be able to understand and empathise with them, but although the inner demons that drive them are hinted at - and in one or two cases more fully explored - you don't really get to know them.

        Without giving too much away, Baldacci does a very good job of exploring the tensions and dependencies between the family members at the core of the story - Michael and John Fiske, and to a lesser extent, their father Ed. Although the broken relationships between them are principally used to drive certain plot elements, the story is enriched as a result of it.

        However, the author doesn't do quite as well in describing the main female characters, two of which are central to the story. The first is Sarah Evans, a close colleague of Michael Fiske and senior clerk for Justice Elizabeth Knight. Evans comes across as conflicted and confused, and it is very difficult at times to get to grips with the reasons she acts the way she does. Some of her actions and motivations seem inconsistent, but as noted previously, this is a fast-paced page-turner of a thriller, so Baldacci does the minimum to keep her credible.

        The other female lead, Justice Knight, is the only female member of the Supreme Court, and although Baldacci doesn't fall into the cliché of portraying her as a feminist (indeed he is at pains to ensure the reader knows her exasperation with the media assumption that she will always support a woman in a case) he finds it difficult to strike a balance between an ambitious, power-hungry politico on the one hand and a caring, down to earth maternal type on the other.

        I found the book difficult to put down once I got into the guts of the story. The plot developments are seemingly easy to see a mile off, but just when you get comfortable and smug about where the story is headed, along comes a slight twist which - to the author's credit - is believably delivered. I have seen many a tale come a cropper due to plot manipulations that lack any sort of credibility, so it is refreshing to read a writer who does it well.

        At five hundred pages, "The Simple Truth" is a substantial read and, generally speaking, there is little in it that qualifies as unnecessary padding. Even in the places where it slows down for a bit of introspection and character development, the extra narrative is clearly justified by later developments. My one criticism is that some of the villains of the piece - especially those in military uniform - do come across as somewhat clichéd and stereotypical (all brawn and no brain) and can be unintentionally amusing more than menacing.

        As an interesting aside, the book also takes a fascinating look at the inner workings of the Supreme Court, and although it is a work of fiction, much of it is based on fact, and as such, is an education in of itself. Despite the fact that, as a lawyer myself, I am well aware that law and justice can often be mutually exclusive, I was still surprised by how overtly political the voting system adopted by the Supreme Court can be.

        ~~~~~~
        VERDICT
        ~~~~~~

        Kid's birthday parties rarely yield such gems. Usually, all I have to take home with me is a child complaining of stomach-ache and yet more sugar to take home in a party bag. Instead, I ended up with a fun, thought-provoking and fast paced read that offers surprising depth underneath the cut and thrust of its central story.

        I finished this book in around three days and was disappointed when it ended. Although "The Simple Truth" is a stand-alone novel, one or two of the characters - especially John Fiske - are interesting enough to warrant further development. I will keep a beady eye on developments to see if David Baldacci obliges some time in the future.

        Recommended.

        © Hishyeness 2009

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          16.09.2000 02:19

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          This is David Baldacci’s fourth novel and it has been selling just as well as the rest, following the success of the movie version of ‘Absolute Power’. His latest novel is set in America and deals with the American legal system. Rufus Harms is in a military prison for murder, having spent 25 years there. However, a letter is found one day that sheds new light on the case. It also contains some evil secrets about some of Washington’s most powerful men. However, Harms sees a chance to escape and takes it. Within hours, a Supreme Court clerk and two lawyers are dead, the only people that knew about the appeal that Harms was going to request. The assassins close in on the soldier and John Fiske; a criminal attorney is drawn into the web. Can Harms save himself and bring the web of corruption and deceit crashing down? David Baldacci is an author who goes from strength to strength. He has found his writing talent and each successive novel is excellent. I thought it would be hard for him to follow up on ‘The Winner’ but ‘The Simple Truth’ is excellent. Rufus Harms is an interesting character and Baldacci develops his story well throughout the novel, along with massive plot twists and turns, some of which I never guessed. The relationship between Fiske and Evans is neatly worked upon, developing all the time. The book is full of action and never really stops moving. It deserves to be another Baldacci best-seller. With ‘Absolute Power’ already turned into a film, how long can it before one of his other novels gets the same treatment?

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