Baldacci offers top-notch suspense with ‘The Innocent’

Forget the election season. If you’re looking for some hard-hitting action around Washington, D.C., this fall, go to David Baldacci. He supplies plenty of it in his thriller "The Innocent."
"The Innocent" has some similarities to Baldacci’s last novel, "Zero Day," which was recently released in paperback. "Zero Day" is a pretty good suspense story about a former soldier-turned-FBI agent who travels to a small West Virginia town to solve some murders that may be linked to the U.S. government (click here to read my review of it).
"The Innocent" follows a former soldier, Will Robie, who tries to solve a mystery about some murders that may be connected to the government. But the similarities to "Zero Day" end there. At its core, "The Innocent" is about an unlikely friendship between Robie and Julie, a busted-up young teenager. And the journey they go on will affect the rest of their lives.
Robie is a military vet and a veteran assassin. He’s among the best at what he does and has traveled the globe knocking off crime figures and other officials, for the government and others. But he has just turned 40 and has never married or had kids. His body is beat up and he’s getting tired of being a lonely hit man. He wonders about retirement and the next phase of his life.
"The Innocent" begins with Robie making a few kills overseas and coming back to his home base in Washington. His next assignment is in the city itself and it looks like an easy one. But something about the mission (killing a seemingly innocent woman and her child in their home) seems fishy to Robie, and he does something totally out of character. Upon confronting them in their bedroom, he refuses to kill them. But a sniper is nearby and kills the two anyway and then tries to kill Robie. But he escapes and goes on the run, suspecting that some powerful group is out to get him.
Julie is on the run too, because her parents were murdered in cold blood at their house. The killer went after Julie but she escaped. Robie and Julie both happen to be on a bus about ready to leave D.C. in the middle of the night when Julie is attacked by a man behind her. She pepper-sprays him and flees the bus. Robie ties up the man and then chases after Julie. The bus suddenly explodes, knocking them to their feet. They are the only survivors. Julie starts to walk away from the scene when Robie shouts at her, "You can’t do this alone, you know. You’ve already screwed up, or got ratted out." She turns around, walks back, and replies "What do you mean?" and thus begins their unlikely alliance. Later, they share their stories and realize that the same group may be after them.
But who or what is a big question. And how exactly are the deaths connected? Robie knows he has to protect Julie and solve the mystery at the same time. But she is very stubborn and independent, and she often wants to do her own thing against Robie’s wishes. This is a different, complicated and a perilous mission for the assassin, and he wonders if he can trust anyone anymore, including Julie. But they need each other in a city full of secrets, shadowy figures and corruption.
"The Innocent" is another Grade A suspense novel from Baldacci. The plot takes some head-scratching turns (especially in the final few chapters), but it’s always exciting. This is Baldacci’s first story involving Robie, and let’s hope it’s not the last.

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