Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews



Simple Genius by David Baldacci




(Mildly Recommended)




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David Baldacci reprises former Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell as characters in his novel, Simple Genius. The good news is that readers don’t have to learn anything new about these familiar characters. The bad news is that despite the action in Simple Genius, there’s still inadequate character development. The plot takes readers to a secret think tank, and requires King and Maxwell to solve complicated puzzles. The pages turn swiftly, but without a lot of satisfaction. Here’s an excerpt, all of Chapter 4, pp. 14-16:


Her fitness was such that Michelle recovered quickly from her injuries, at least her physical injuries. The effects of the concussion wore off, the ribs started to heal, and a tooth was implanted to re­place the one knocked out. Sean had checked into a motel near the hospital and was there with her every day. Yet then another problem cropped up. When Sean brought Michelle home from the hospital the locks on the guesthouse had been changed and their bags were packed and sitting on the porch. Sean called his buddy the owner. The man who answered the phone said that Sean should feel fortu­nate the owner was not filing assault charges against him for attack­ing his son with a bat. And the man added that Sean should never attempt to contact them again.

Sean looked over at Michelle in the passenger seat. The woman’s eyes were blank, and it wasn’t just the pain meds.

He said, “Uh, Michelle, they’re, uh, renovating the guesthouse. I knew about it, but forgot.”

She just looked out the window, not registering on anything.

He drove to a motel and checked into a double room, not trusting Michelle to be left alone. He had gotten cash from his bank, afraid even to look at the pitiful balance of funds left. As dinner that night he had takeout Chinese while Michelle, with her badly bruised jaw and newly installed tooth, could only drink liquids.

He sat on the edge of her bed where she lay huddled. “I need to change the dressing on your face,” he said. “Okay?”

She had superficial cuts on her jaw and forehead. Both areas were still tender to the touch and she flinched as he took the old ban­dages off.


“Just do it,” she snapped, startling him. He glanced at her eyes but they’d already retreated into a deep glaze.

“How’re the ribs?” he asked, trying to keep the conversation going. She turned away from him.

After he finished he said, “You need anything else?” No answer. “Michelle, we need to talk about this.”

In response she lay back on the bed and curled into a ball.

He stood and paced the room, his hand clasped around a bottle of beer. “Why in the hell would you take on a guy who looks like he could start at left tackle for the Redskins?”


He stopped pacing. “Look, things will turn around. I’ve got a few leads on some work,” he added, lying. “Does that make you feel better?”

“Stop, Sean.”

“Stop what? Trying to be optimistic and supportive?”

All that got in response from her was a grunt.

“Look, you go into another bar like that, some guy’ll probably pull a gun and put a hole in your head and that’ll be it.”



“What is going on with you?”

She stumbled into the bathroom and locked the door. He could hear her upchucking.

“Michelle, are you all right? Do you need help?”

“Leave me the hell alone!” she screamed.

Sean stalked outside and sat by the motel’s pool, dangling his feet in the warm water and breathing in chlorine fumes while he finished his beer. It was a beautiful evening. And to top it off a cute, twenty­-something lady had just slipped into the pool wearing a bikini that was so small it hardly qualified as clothing. She started doing laps, her strokes efficient, powerful. On the fourth lap she stopped and treaded water in front of him, her full breasts bobbing on the sur­face. “Care to race?”

“From what I’ve seen of your performance, I doubt I could give you much competition.”

“You ought to see me really perform. And I don’t mind giving lessons. I’m Jenny.”

“Thanks for the invite, Jenny, but I’ll have to take a pass.” He got up and walked off. Over his shoulder he heard Jenny say in a disappointed tone, “God, why do I always pick the cute gay guys?”

“Damn, this has been such a great day,” Sean muttered. When he got back to the room Michelle was asleep. He lay on the other bed staring at her.

Two more days passed with no improvement. Sean made a deci­sion. Whatever was hurting the lady, he simply didn’t have the tools to help her. Apparently, a deep friendship didn’t cut it with matters of a wounded soul. But he knew someone who might be able to help.


The plot momentum in Simple Genius moves slowly, and the four hundred pages seem more than a hundred too long. For an escape, or to fill time on a long flight or flight delay, Simple Genius is good enough.


Steve Hopkins, September 25, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the October 2007 issue of Executive Times


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