Simple Genius
David Baldacci
576 pages

Simple Genius is not David Baldacci ‘s best mystery thriller by far. It suffers from Ludlum-osis i.e. a much too convoluted plot that is dragged on for far too long with little believable payoff in the end.

Baldacci writes complicated mystery novels with many lead characters. This means these are not short, beach reading books. Unlike Stone Cold, The Whole Truth, The Camel Club, or The Collectors where the complex plot and well-drawn characters keep you turning the pages, Simple Genius is a plodding affair that eventually forces the reader to skip ahead a few chapters.

Also annoying is this mystery / spy thriller assumes the reader is familiar with the previous Sean King / Michelle Maxwell novel Split Second and thus only hints at the backstory needed to understand or care about this novel's first few chapters.

To make a convoluted plot understandable: King is hired by a former flame to look into the death of a mathematics genius at a government run computer think tank. King is pretty much on his own for a long while as Maxwell is a little nuts and undergoing therapy for some childhood trauma. Across the think tank is the CIA base where the body was found.

Toss in a whole bunch of stuff about secret codes, an autistic child, a couple more bodies, a treasure hunt, and references to the Enigma machine and you more or less have the bones of Simple Genius. The meat, unfortunately, is not that palatable.

The ending in Simple Genius is also quite disappointing. Some of the last few chapters features some Abu Graib type material that simply doesn't play, the reveal itself makes you wonder why you bothered reading this, and the rest feels like Baldacci is wrapping up loose ends he stuck himself with as best he can