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Simple Genius [Library Binding]

David Baldacci
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 9 2009
Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are back, and struggling in the emotional aftermath of the events that brought them to the brink in Hour Game. Dogged by personal demons, Maxwell is seeking solace in a psychiatric institution, after barely surviving a violent barroom brawl. And King, having failed to right their troubled partnership, watches bewildered and mortified by his partner's rapid decline. Relieved to have some distraction, he hastily accepts an offer to investigate a murder at a retreat called Babbage Town, a secret enclave of scientific geniuses working to surpass the capabilities of the most sophisticated microprocessor in the world. But to what end? And more immediate, why do so many of the key players in the menacing project have ties to the institution where Maxwell's staying? Suddenly, the pair find themselves in a race against time to expose a plot that could unhinge the entire global power structure...and destroy what's left of their lives.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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From Publishers Weekly

Last seen in Split Second (2003), former Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have reached a crisis in their relationship in this less than compelling Washington political thriller from bestseller Baldacci. When Maxwell instigates a fight with the most intimidating bruiser she could find at a local bar and lets herself be beaten unconscious, despite her superior fighting skills, her partner suggests she voluntarily commit herself to a psychiatric facility. While Maxwell reluctantly undergoes treatment to find the childhood roots of her death wish, King probes the suicide of a scientist found on the grounds of Virginia's Camp Peary, a mysterious CIA facility. Both mysteries are fairly run of the mill, lacking the sharp twists and expert pacing that characterize Baldacci's fiction at its best. (Apr. 24)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This follow-up to 2004's Hour Game begins with Michelle Maxwell, the former Secret Service agent turned private investigator, scraping the bottom of the emotional barrel. When she wanders into a seedy bar and picks a fight with the biggest guy she can find, she knows someone is about to die . . and she hopes it's not him. Soon Michelle is sidelined at a mental hospital, and Sean King, her partner, is trying to find a case to keep their business afloat. He finds one--a murder at a high-tech think tank--and it's not long before Michelle checks herself out of the hospital and joins Sean. But can they piece together this intricate puzzle in time to save a girl's life and blow the lid off a top-level government conspiracy? The most intriguing element of this compulsively readable novel is its setting: Babbage Town, the think tank, is modeled after World War II's Bletchley Park, where some of the world's top thinkers joined forces to break the top-secret German communications code. Baldacci's twenty-first-century version of Bletchley brings together a community of scientists working on a new kind of computer, but readers familiar with the Bletchley story will note how carefully Baldacci draws the parallels. As always, the two leads work well together, their strengths and weaknesses complementing each other. Baldacci, always strong on suspense but occasionally clunky stylistically, finds his voice here. The best entry in the series. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Code Enthusiast's Thriller May 5 2007
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
If you love books about secret codes, Simple Genius will be a book you'll long treasure. If you like thrillers that teem with action, sex scenes, obscure martial arts, and high-tech weaponry, this book will seem like a yawn.

As Mr. Baldacci warns you, don't read the Author's Note until after you finish the book. But don't miss that note if you read and like the book. It's a marvelous look into how the story was constructed.

What I found most delightful about Simple Genius was that the plot development kept surprising me. Sure, the general outlines are foreshadowed intentionally (so that you don't get lost in the maze of details), but the specifics shift unexpectedly. In fact, midway through the book, I literally jumped out of my chair with surprise when one change occurred involving the medical examiner.

Simple Genius is intellectually dense. You'll be exposed to more psychology, code breaking, quantum computers, and history than you would normally find in 20 thrillers combined. To Mr. Baldacci's credit, he keeps it as simple as possible without insulting your intelligence.

As the book opens, former Secret Service agents turned PIs, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have hit bottom. They don't have any work, and Michelle picks a potentially lethal fight with the toughest guy she can find in the roughest bar in town. It takes the last of Sean's money, but he persuades Michelle to seek psychiatric help from an old friend, Dr. Horatio Barnes. Barnes quickly concludes that Michelle is punishing herself, but for what?

Desperate to keep Michelle in treatment, Sean calls his former love and begs for a job. He gets the job, on the condition that Michelle is kept away.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining enough but not his best. . . May 13 2007
Format:Hardcover
I started reading Baldacci with his very good "The Camel Club" and have slowly been working through his back list. Besides being one of the sexiest thriller writers alive, he also knows how to write compelling stories that keep me turning the pages. I was thrilled to get an advance copy of "Simple Genius" a few weeks ago. I hate to have to report though that this book felt a bit flat to me. The story brings back Sean King and Michelle Maxwell from "Split Second" which I have not read and could possibly had an effect on my view of the book but I don't think so. Michelle seems to have some sort of suicidal wish, which comes to a head when she lets a big oaf at a local tavern beat her into a stupor. With King's pushing she enters a treatment center to try and discover what terrible secrete is eating at her soul--but she is not a willing subject. At the same time Sean is also investigating the death of a scientist at a mysterious top secrete CIA installation. In the end I found the pacing very flat and the awaited trademark Baldacci plot twists were never quite delivered. Not a bad book, but not his best. If your new to Baldacci I recommend you read the "The Camel Club" or "Absolute Power" first.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Baldacci books May 26 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
All of D Baldacci books get a five star rating from me. He is just a good story-teller To save time I will include all the Walker - Texas Ranger TV series and all of AJ Quinnell;s books as 5 star ratings I would like to see " The Mahdi" in the Kindle store
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4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Complex Jan. 21 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Always like these two characters as a team but it felt somewhat too real to delve deeper into the background of the female lead. The mystery that makes up the soul of a person doesn't need to be revealed to help us try to understand that person ... we should be left guessing or hoping. Interesting perspective but wondering where he will go from here in the next installment ...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  501 reviews
109 of 116 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sacrificing quality for quantity... May 21 2007
By Cynthia K. Robertson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have been a big fan of David Baldacci from the very beginning and have been impressed with the consistent quality of his work. Unfortunately, with his last three books, he now seems to be sacrificing quality for quantity and Simple Genius is a disappointment.

Baldacci brings back two former Secret Service agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. These two appeared previously in Split Second and Hour Game and are now private investigators. Simple Genius opens with Michelle Maxwell having a meltdown--the result of some long-repressed childhood memory. Meanwhile, King is hired by a super-secret company to investigate the death of one of their top mathematicians (which happens on CIA property). King stays at the company headquarters called Babbage Town, where he meets a whole host of scientists who are on the verge of some earth-changing discoveries. But he's not at Babbage Town very long before someone else ends of dead. This case will pit King against the FBI, the CIA and unknown spies and will involve drug dealing, secret codes, illegal detainments, illegal torture, buried treasure and an 11 year old autistic genius. Yup--it's that's hokey. While King is battling all these things, it is uncertain whether Maxwell will be able to pull through for him.

I really liked King and Maxwell in Baldacci's previous books. But in Simple Genius, they're just too one dimensional. It also seems as if Baldacci's plots become more and more far-fetched. I wonder if he's now writing books because he has to meet a deadline and not because he has a riveting story to tell. Baldacci is still much better than many mystery writers today. Unfortunately, I've come to expect much more from him.
60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful summer escapist thriller May 21 2007
By Paul Weiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The seeds of Baldacci's latest novel "Simple Genius" are sowed a book earlier.

Mentally stressed beyond her ability to continue a normal life, Michelle Maxwell simply breaks down. Her horrifying experience in "Hour Game" with a boyfriend who turned out to be a serial killer and the continuing anguish of a deeply buried secret we will later learn she has carried with her since she was only six years old drives her into a potentially suicidal bar brawl with a complete stranger. Her long-time friend and investigative partner, Sean King, convinces her to check herself into a psychiatric hospital for rest, recuperation and serious examination of the demons she is encountering. Assuming full responsibility for the financial costs of this care, he desperately searches for work and accepts a contract to investigate the suicide (murder?) of Monk Turing, a quantum physicist and computer scientist working for Babbage Town, a high powered corporate think tank located across the York River from Camp Peary, a top secret CIA training facility. (That name, by the way - Turing, that is - is no coincidence!)

But like any good modern thriller, "Simple Genius" draws in far more detail, many more twists and turns, unexpected plot diversions and absorbing information than one would expect from this straightforward plot development in the opening chapters - the basics of public and private encryption keys and the related use of enormous numbers and their correspondingly huge prime factors; rogue CIA agents; the history of German POWs during WW II in New England; a treasure hunt from Colonial England and America's first days as an independent nation; the moral issues of civil rights as they apply to prisoners in the current wars on terror and drugs; hypnosis and the difficulties of diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses; and much more.

Like some of his high-powered peers in the thriller racket (Jonathan Kellerman, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child immediately come to mind), Baldacci's side bars on science, history, geography and politics are diverting, informative, interesting and entertaining without interrupting the timing and flow of the plot. This has got to be an art in its own right!

Highly recommended summer escapist reading! If you enjoy thrillers, you won't be sorry for taking a copy of this one to the beach or the cottage with you. And, thankfully, the door is left wide open for return appearances by Sean King and Michelle Maxwell.

Paul Weiss
57 of 68 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining enough but less than thrilling. . . April 24 2007
By Bill Pullman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I started reading Baldacci with his very good "The Camel Club" and have slowly been working through his back list. Besides being one of the sexiest thriller writers alive, he also knows how to write compelling stories that keep me turning the pages. I was thrilled to get an advance copy of "Simple Genius" a few weeks ago. I hate to have to report though that this book felt a bit flat to me. The story brings back Sean King and Michelle Maxwell from "Split Second" which I have not read and could possibly had an effect on my view of the book but I don't think so. Michelle seems to have some sort of suicidal wish, which comes to a head when she lets a big oaf at a local tavern beat her into a stupor. With King's pushing she enters a treatment center to try and discover what terrible secrete is eating at her soul--but she is not a willing subject. At the same time Sean is also investigating the death of a scientist at a mysterious top secrete CIA installation. In the end I found the pacing very flat and the awaited trademark Baldacci plot twists were never quite delivered. Not a bad book, but not his best. If your new to Baldacci I recommend you read the "The Camel Club" or "Absolute Power" first.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Baldacci's best May 5 2007
By G. Ware Cornell Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
One of the problems with the present national malaise about the War on Terror, is that the stream of revelations about certain practices in which our government engages contributes to the plot lines of new thrillers.

Here is a partial list-drug smuggling, extraordinary renditions, collateral damage, kidnapping, torture, waterboarding, and black ops. All of these find there way into David Baldacci's Simple Genius along with repressed memory, codebreaking, martial arts, autism, secret tunnels, suicide, martial infidelity and psychiatry.

This books reminds me of one of those silent films of the 1920's where the heroine would escape a burning building, only to be tied to the railroad track. She always escapes but only to find herself ensnared in another escape-proof situation.

Baldacci is too good a writer to fall into the kind of formulaic claptrap this book presents. Less time with the "thrill a minute" stuff and more with character would have better served Baldacci and his loyal readers.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Title Reflects Genius; Story Falls Short Sept. 6 2007
By Craig L. Howe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
David Baldacci former Secret Services Agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell should have stayed in finding.

Simple Genius, thir third novel as characters, leaves much to be desired. The heroes of Baldacci's Split Second and Hour Game make their third appearance in a Baldacci novel, we are told on the book jacket "as you've never seen them before."

That is true. But in my humble opinion, they would have been better suited if they turned down this appearance. Baldacci wrote a great novel with his first, Absolute Power. Since then, it has been downhill. While I am sure he has rung the register with his successive books, the reading public would have been better served if he remained a practicing attorney.

It is too bad. Baldacci has enormous talent. He is capable of writing great novels. At his current pace, however it is not happening. Perhaps it is time to reconsider his pace. More time in thought may result in better reads. I finished this one, but it was a stretch.
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