The Innocent book

"The Innocent" by David Baldacci, Grand Central Publishing, 422 pages, $27.99,

My editor asked: "Does David Baldacci write a new book every two months?"

Well, maybe. He does have 23 other published books before this one, and he turns out two to three every year. By far most of them are highly readable, full of action with flawed heroes and twisted plots that keep the pages turning.

This one is up to par -- I finished it in a day.

Here, a government assassin for a dozen years or more is a marvelous shooter who always follows orders that take him around the world to targets confirmed by -- of course -- a secret office that shuns the public eye. Typical fare for a suspense thriller.

But then Will Robie, the stoic hero, has a target he just can't handle: a midlevel Washington bureaucrat, a mother with two small sons. He balks at the crucial moment of killing and knows that this is a fatal mistake. You don't screw around with his boss. So, he quickly takes a well-planned contingency route and heads out of town on a hardscrabble bus to New York City.

But along comes a 14-year-old girl with a backpack on the same bus, followed by a man whom Robie recognizes as someone just like himself, a stone killer. Naturally, having made one major mistake, Robie again goes against all his training and helps the teenager. Now there is big trouble.

Pact assignments are catching up with Robie, and a whole basketful of strange coincidences and occurrences is placing him and the girl in deadly danger.

This is a violent book, with lots of casualties. You don't see the blood and guts as in the movies, but the descriptions are graphic and mind-bending. There are a lot of ways to die.

Yes, this is another great novel by a brilliant writer. Baldacci catches you from the very first page and grabs your attention until the last word. Read it.

Francis Moul, Ph.D., is an environmental historian.

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