Publication Date: April 17, 2012
Will Robie is a government assassin who likes to watch the normal people that live around him and hopes to live to be like them one day. To that end, he’s started attending neighbor events and has started a flirtation with an attractive woman across the hall. When he aborts his newest assignment due to a crisis of conscience only to find that his handler had a back-up plan, Robie goes on the run and meets a 14-year-old girl with people after her. Robie vows to find a way to keep her safe and, hopefully, save himself at the same time.
I’m going to make a big statement – I think The Innocent is the best novel Mr. Baldacci has written in a long time. I won’t claim to have read his entire backlist, but I’ve read a fair number of his novels and The Innocent was cleanly written with a compelling plot and interesting characters.
The novel opens with Robie on the eve of his 40th birthday preparing for another kill and telling us that he has killed so many people that he can’t remember their names. He has a clear vision that one day it will all go wrong and that day will be his last. The first kill happens in Underground Edinborough and is executed with precision and gives us a lot of insight into Robie, what he does and where he sees himself going. We have a similar parallel character progression with 14-year-old Julie when we meet her in her foster home. She leaves after rescuing her fellow foster kids and arrives at the home of her parents in time to see their execution. We know from the development that she is smart and resourceful, and we believe that a 14-year-old would escape a professional hit man. The meeting between Julie and Robie is conveniently set but easy to excuse, and their interplay is perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the novel.
The narrative in The Innocent is intense and procedural in a way that works as action so it doesn’t bog down the story line. This is the sort of novel that the reader should set time aside to experience because once you start, you won’t want to put it down. Baldacci is excellent at building anticipation and then making that next step make sense. The characters all work off of each other and develop together. Vance, your typical female cop, opens up as she gets to know Robie and we see her in a new light, as we do all of the characters by the end of the novel.The Innocent was in no way the perfect novel. The ending was a huge let down. The bad guys were obvious and a little too all powerful. When the story line comes together, it’s clearly crafted to be a surprise to the reader but I think anyone who reads mysteries as a part of the novel nutrician would have seen these guys coming.
Overall, The Innocent is well worth reading. I have heard people express the desire that Baldacci should continue with Robie and I don’t agree with them. I am happy with where we left this character but if Baldacci decided to write a sequel, I would buy the next novel. I don’t have confidence that his continuation would make sense but I would be willing to give Baldacci a shot.The Innocent will appear on the New York Times Bestseller List on May 6, 2012.
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