When my wife and I lived in California, we enrolled in the Sierra Club’s Basic Mountaineering Course. In one session we went to the mountains and into the snow. We learned to Glissade (Which means to slide) . We would slide down the packed ice and snow on our stomachs, on our backs, head first and feet first. The object of the lesson was to teach us that in case we fell on the ice and snow how to stop ourselves using our feet, our hands elbows and our ice axe. When we were sliding down the mountain we discovered that it was thrilling, exciting and exhilarating. That’s how I feel when reading some books. We also took hikes along the beach in the soft sand. I liked that too but it took a lot more effort. That’s the way I feel about some of Mr. Baldacci’s books. I like them but the reading takes effort.
I found that Simple Genius is an easier read than other of Mr. Baldacci’s books. Simple Genius did not overwhelm me with a dizzying cast of characters, and I was able to keep track of them and the plot as I read.
Sean King, a partner in an Investigation services company, is in financial straits since he refused to take a substantial fee from his client and former lover Joan Dillinger for his last job. Maxine Maxwell, his partner dealing with personal demons, in a foul mood , goes to a bar gets drunk and picks a fight with the biggest bruiser in the saloon. This time, however, she has picked someone who is a match for her and is severely beaten. To keep her out of jail, Sean pressures her into admitting herself to inpatient therapy with another colleague, Horatio Barnes.
Meanwhile, Joan Dillinger has persuaded Sean to take on what she believes to be a simple well paying investigation into the death of a math genius named Monk Turing. He is a descendent of Alan Turing of WWII Bletchley Park, Code Breaker fame and works for a mysterious think tank named Babbage Town.
The supposedly simple investigation escalates into a huge mystery involving: the CIA, the FBI, some clandestine private entrepreneurs, Middle Eastern warlords and illegal drug traffic. There are several murders and Sean is attacked and shot at. Maxine signs herself out of therapy to try and protect King. She befriends an autistic teenager who is a mathematics savant and who turns out to hold the key to the whole mystery surrounding Camp Peary, a CIA installation, Babbage Town, secret midnight flights, and planes carrying passengers in Middle Eastern dress and large plastic covered bundles .
King and Maxwell marshal a number of resources: Maxine’s therapist, former lovers, current adversaries, and government agencies to get to the bottom of the plot and solve the mystery of the death of Monk Turing.
This is an intriguing plot inspired by real world concerns and made plausible by Mr. Baldacci’s ability to create interesting characters and assemble a complicated plot. The combination keeps the reader turning pages in order to find the answers.
I found some of the situations and some activities of agencies and private groups to be wildly speculative but we suspend our disbelief and allow Mr. Baldacci his poetic license for our enjoyment