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Divine Justice

by David Baldacci

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By

Divine Justice

© Grand Central Publishing

Grand Central Publishing, 2008

Divine Justice is set in Divine, Virginia, the heart of coal mining country. It is an obviously prosperous town but so far off the beaten track that not even the local buses run there. It is a Mayberry town as imagined by Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Although spic and span on the outside, it causes the hairs on the back of one's neck to rise early on. There are mysterious suicides and deaths, and it is home to a federal supermax prison.

This is the fourth in the Camel Club series of novels that have enjoyed immense popularity. Each novel has asked what secrets the federal government is keeping from citizens? Notice that the question is "is keeping" not "might be keeping." It is not paranoia if there really are secrets, and any one of us who has served in certain governmental agencies is very well aware that secrets do exist, some benign, some malignant.

This novel opens where Stone Cold ends, just after Oliver Stone has assassinated Carter Gray, head of the CIA, and Roger Simpson, who had raised Stone's daughter after his wife was murdered. Both men had conspired to ruin Stone's life and force him underground courtesy of a fake grave at Arlington National Cemetery. It was a righteous kill within the world of the series. He is headed to New Orleans on Amtrak, leaving his friends in the dark as to his destination, when a young man on the train is attacked by three hoodlums. Stone rescues the young man, but they have to leave the train. He accompanies the man to Divine, which at first seems to be a good place to hide.
Unfortunately, he is being tracked by an agent with skills nearly equal to his. Will Joe Knox find Stone? If so, will Knox kill him or turn him over to General Macklin Hayes who has an earlier connection to Stone. Then, there is the town itself. Why is it prosperous? The reason given early on seems reasonable at first blush. Why do the miners drive an hour each way every morning for a methadone fix prior to entering the mines? Why is there a supermax prison in this tiny town and what is the relationship between the warden and the local sheriff? Will his friends be able to track him down?
All these questions are resolved in a realistic and thrilling conclusion. Additionally, Divine Justice seems to resolve many of the issues raised in the series in such a way that we may have seen the last of Oliver Stone/John Carr and his friends. We shall miss them.

At a recent book signing, Baldacci indicated that he likes to entertain and inform in his fiction. He writes about what he wants to know, and he "hopes the passion comes through." That is certainly the case in this novel. It truly is a page turner as Baldacci skillfully interweaves the multiple plot lines and characters. Asked about the number of lawyers writing fiction these days, Baldacci said that some of the best fiction he ever wrote was as a lawyer. He went on to compare lawyers and writers since both must research and write persuasively within ethical considerations. At the end of the day, it is important to know the details. Again, Divine Justice excels in keeping straight the details of this story and the details of the back story of Stone/Carr.
Baldacci has reached such stature within the security community that agencies come to him asking for various scenarios - blowing up the Super Bowl, for example. Despite that level of "importance" he is still able to tell stories on himself. While in law school he began writing short stories and screenplays, but was not particularly adept at the latter. A friend came to him for help on a screenplay. Baldacci told him it "sucked." The jokes were sophomoric, the humor too scatological. The friend persevered without him and today we have the Austin Powers movies.

Baldacci, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, has written 17 novels and 3 children's books. He is active in a number of charities, including the Wish You Well Foundation that he and his wife created to support and promote family literacy. He and his wife live in Virginia.

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