Tuesday, November 11, 2008

David Baldacci: The Camel Club

I got six pages into David Baldacci’s latest Oliver Stone novel – Divine Justice. But I just felt that I was missing something. It seemed to be assuming that I should remember information from the previous episode (Stone Cold). So I backed off and decided to reread from the start.

Oliver Stone and his friends are introduced in The Camel Club. They are four friends who believe in government conspiracies, and believe that citizen vigilance can make a difference, and joined together as the Camel Club to watch. Oliver Stone has a permanent protest permit, and has maintained a tent in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. He has been there long enough for the Secret Service to consider him essentially harmless. Agent Alex Ford has even gone so far as to enjoy playing chess with him.

Oliver has a hidden past under a different name. In that past he was very good at things he no longer believes in. That past help fuel his distrust of the government.

The basic premise of the book is that even conspiracy theorists can occasionally stumble across a real conspiracy. In this case, The Camel Club accidentally witnesses a murder that is intended to look like a suicide. Unfortunately for them, the killers know they’ve been seen. All the members of the club are quirky, and realize no one will believe them – except of course the killers that are now searching for them. Oliver leads them on the aggressive path of trying to uncover the killers, rather than simply trying to hide.

The dead man had a loose connection to the Secret Service, so Alex Ford gets involved in the investigation, although he is inclined to believe the suicide findings. Oliver gets him wondering if there is more.

As the story unfolds the murder leads to a much larger conspiracy involving high levels of America’s anti-terrorism forces. And we learn more about Oliver’s past. His old skills become critical in unraveling the conspiracy, and in keeping the club members alive.

Some books with the same characters are unabashed sequels in a series – like Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle or John Twelve Hawks’ Fourth Realm Trilogy. Others can be pretty stand-alone, like Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher stories. But others, like Rowling’s Harry Potter books, depend on the characters and backgrounds evolving across the volumes. The Oliver Stone books fall into thins last category. I like any of these approaches, but I do not like picking up a book when I never knew, or have forgotten the back story.

I like Baldacci’s stories and characters well enough that I do not object to his continuing the story line. But that’s largely because I have read them from the beginning. And as I’ve just confirmed with The Camel Club, I still like them on the re-read.


Kit Bradley said...

You've written enough Baldacci reviews that I'm getting antsy to read one. What do you recommend first?

Nate Bradley said...

Boy, where to start? I've liked everything I've read by Baldacci. And other than the latest waiting on my shelf, I've read everything he's written.

Absolute Power was the first, got me hooked, and was a successful movie with Gene Hackman.

There are two series with repeating characters. The Oliver Stone books are: The Camel Club, The Collectors, Stone Cold, and Divine Justice. The Sean King/Michelle Maxwell books are Split Second, Hour Game, and Simple Genius. You could start with the beginning of either of these series, but not one of the later ones.

Wish You Well is a good book, but completely out of the norm for Baldacci. Not a good starting point. The same thing goes for The Christmas Train, although if it takes a while for you to get started, it is a nice Christmas book.

I don't remember all the early ones well enough, but high on my re-read list are Total Control, and Saving Faith.

I suppose, if you haven't seen the movie, start at the beginning with Absolute Power. Beyond that, anything except the ones I said not to start with.

Of course I ended up mentioning everything but The Winner, The Simple Truth, and Last Man Standing. There's nothing wrong with any of these either.

Kit Bradley said...

Hmm. I figured out how to set up an RSS feed so I know when you post a new review. But I don't hear about it when comments come in -- I have to go looking for them.

So I took your advice and ordered Absolute Power this evening -- for $0.01 plus shipping. (I like buying popular books that are more than a couple years old, since you can get them for the shipping charge.)