Book Review :: The Guilty

The Guilty (Will Robie, #4)The Guilty by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review was first published in The Hans India

Baldacci’s most popular character so far, Will Robie’s assassinating days are on the line after a screw up at a mission—now he “needs” to go home, which he abandoned 20 years ago but, this is far from a homecoming

Assassinating the past
David Baldacci takes the high profile assassin, Will Robie to a rusty, rural town Cantrell, Mississippi in ‘The Guilty’.This is the fourth Will Robie story and unlike the first three, Will’s role is different in this.

One of the most valuable “assets” for the US government, CIA’s star assassin Will Robie makes a blooper in his latest mission. In killing a target overseas, he accidentally kills the target’s daughter and Will loses his game. After he touches base in the US, Blue Man (his boss) informs Will that his estranged father has been arrested for murder and Will “needs” to return home (after twenty plus years) because, obviously what else would fix him?

Secret agents and snipers with daddy issues hitting back home just before their mid-life crisis to “face their past”; could this be anymore cliché? Regardless, Baldacci makes it work what with Will’s likeable personality and demeanour.

Twenty years change a lot, even a small town like Cantrell. For one, Will’s father, once a second-rate lawyer, is now the county judge with a mansion for a house and a young new wife, Victoria and two-year-old, Tyler.The man his father is accused of killing is a “lowlife” named Sherman Clancy, who comes to wealth in mysterious happenings. There’s a sadistic and misogynistic preacher, who calls his three rebellious daughters as sluts; two of whom end up murdered. And, a lingering wound is opened up by the absence of the Barksdale family whose daughter, Laura was Will’s childhood sweetheart; Will believes that she could have been the one.

Rural, small towns in the South Gulf Coast have their own rules and soon, things turns into a terrible homecoming for Will. He is unwelcome; sinister things are happening, the FBI shows up with a serial killer angle and amidst the ruckus, the no-nonsense, all steel, Jessica Reel (his professional partner first introduced in ‘The Hit’) shows up and helps Will, who is trying to save his father by tracking down the real killer.

The setting is apt, characters are real and the robust town is as sinister as it gets in the south; the turn of every page is packed with action, with wonderful prose taking Jessica and Will to mortal peril. Here’s the thing though,assassins are not detectives. Now, Will Robie is all things amazing and capable but, he is not a spy. Neither is Jessica Reel. If they were, the CIA would have hired them as one. Therefore, the duo’s approach to solving a murder mystery is amateur in spite of their action game being on point. Full points to Baldacci for making it an authentically bad mystery novel, because, again, assassins are not detectives and take note, this is not bad writing.

The problem with the book is that it even though it starts off well; it ends on a low note. In addition, too many abusive, clichéd subplots dilute the intensity of the book’s purpose. Adding to that is the lame double-twist climax, which isn’t all surprising (if you’re a mystery novel fan) because you will have guessed the culprit long before Will.

This is Baldacci indulging his creations so let’s let the author have his fun. Readers will learn more about what makes Robie tick and as Baldacci himself has said in the note to the readers before the book begins, “He (Will Robie) may be highly trained and superbly fit and excel at what he does, but Robie is not infallible. And he has emotions just like anyone else.”

Baldacci has revealed to the coming of more Will Robie books. It would be interesting to see what comes next after Robie’s phase of ‘facing the demons of the past’ is done for good.

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