The Paperbackers

To put it alliteratively, Baldacci is back with a bang. In The Innocent (Pan Macmillan, Rs. 350), David Baldacci shows why exactly he's one of the world's best-selling thriller writers.

Will Robie is an assassin par excellence for an intelligence agency (while its name is never explicitly mentioned, it's clear that Robie is a member of the Special Activities Division of the CIA). The first few chapters that follow Robie at work in Edinburgh and Tangier show just what an effective and ruthless killing machine he is. It's only when he's assigned a target closer home that things start to go awry. Suddenly Robie's mission and status are both compromised and he's forced to go rogue. Out in the cold, his life is further complicated when he runs into one Julie Getty, former foster kid and recent witness to her parents' murder. Soon enough he realises Getty and he are fleeing a common enemy. Mixed into this covert cocktail are an exploding bus, an attractive FBI agent, an even more attractive neighbour of Robie's and a mysterious CIA big-shot known only as "Blue Man" (level of attractiveness not mentioned). Robie needs every ounce of guile, skill and analytic abilities he's got to keep the people he cares for (and himself) alive.

The writing is crisp as fresh toast and the plot taut as a high-tension wire. But it's not just that. Baldacci manages to flawlessly capture the sombre mood of a post-recession US, complete with the housing and economic crises. This one's a definite keeper and a welcome addition to Baldacci's oeuvre.

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