GET OUT EXTRA BLOOD PRESSURE MEDS
This is the 4th entry in the Camel Club series, following the 2007 entry of “Stone Cold.” This is definitely not a standalone novel. Everything that was started in the first novel, “The Camel Club,” comes to a head in this entry. Without the detailed and intimate knowledge of events that have transpired during and since the first novel, in particular the end of the third novel, this tale is lost.
This story begins only minutes after the conclusion of “Stone Cold.” Oliver has just completed the vigilante assassination of Carter Gray and Senator Simpson and has sailed over the 30-foot high cliff behind Gray’s house into the Chesapeake Bay. Oliver intends to travel to New Orleans by train and disappear into the post-Katrina chaos. And he might have succeeded had he not intervened when three men began savagely beating another young man in a seat near Oliver. Oliver and all involved are kicked off the Amtrak at the next stop, a hole-in-the-wall area of the Virginia Appalachia Mountains. Oliver travels with the injured young man to the boy’s town of Divine and steps right into a coalmining town whose residents are up to their eyeballs in violence, mayhem and suspicious deaths. You got it – No good deed goes unpunished!
There are four plot threads intertwining within this novel. First is Oliver’s flight to avoid termination with prejudice by the Federal Government. Second is the attempt by Joe Knox, a highly competent CIA tracker, to locate Oliver and turn him over to his CIA handler, a major player in the government’s intelligence network.
Third is the Camel Club’s attempt to locate Oliver and keep him out of Joe Knox’s clutches. This is the first time they have ever attempted an extraction on their own without Oliver’s help. And there is dissention in the ranks because of Alex Ford’s position as a Secret Service agent.
The fourth story is the one that pulls the other three together, the mystery that is the town of Divine. Baldacci spares nothing here. The events that transpire over a little more than a week are violent and are expressed graphically. But it is not gratuitous violence; it is simply what could surely happen under the circumstances. And, for the one hundred pages starting with page 269, the situation ratchets up to a point of such brutality and abject hopelessness for Oliver and Knox that you begin to wonder how Baldacci is going to pull off the rescue without using a deus ex machina.
But pull it off he does, and in a logical and plausible manner. However, it doesn’t happen before your blood pressure goes right through the roof. And he pulls it off with a descriptive prose and a writing style of short chapters that see-saw back and forth between the major characters – building block by brick the plot’s framework, the tense rise to the climax, a satisfying conclusion and just the barest hint of the next story to come.
Cover art from Goodreads