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26 October 2012

David Baldacci: The Forgotten

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John Puller - Baldacci's new Jack Reacher
Now that Oliver Stone and the Camel Club are over, David Baldacci is looking for a key player for a new series. Welcome to Military Criminal Investigator, John Puller Jr, who some of you will have met first in "Zero Day". Puller is basically a military policeman, over 6 feet tall, very athletic and powerful but with battle wounds from active service, great with weapons and a diligent and brilliant investigator. After the traumas of "Zero Day" Puller went off for some post stress R & R -  "He had no map, no plan, no destination".

Does all of this sound a bit familiar, a bit like Jack Reacher? Of course it does. We all love Jack Reacher but after so many iterations his adventures are getting a bit thin and repetitious. So let's see what Puller can offer. Firstly he is still in the military although this adventure starts out as a personal investigation. His aunt who raised him sent a letter saying "people are not being who they seemed". When Puller arrives in Florida he finds that she has been drowned in her back-yard fountain, which the police think is accidental. Puller he gets involved with the local police in trying to convince them that it was murder. Like Zero Day, a simple investigation quickly uncovers  something far more sinister and dangerous.

The finale is fast and furious escapist nonsense with a team of unlikely goodies, including some kick-ass females, taking care of almost a football team of nasty baddies.

Did I enjoy it? Yes because I like Baldacci's page-turning style and characterisation, with well thought-out plot. Did I worry about the Jack Reacher similarity? Yes, because Baldacci should be able to create a new character without apparently having to plagiarize another one. What is my greatest concern? That someone might have plans for a John Puller movie with Tom Cruise in the lead role.

I worried over an appropriate rating and came up with 3.5 stars (somewhere between Amazon's "OK" [3 stars] and "I like it" [4 stars]. In the end because I did enjoy it I rounded it back to 4 stars. Would I read the next Baldacci book, even if it was John Puller again. I think so.

PS (EDITED) Someone who commented pointed out that Lee Child gets a bit of revenge in his latest Reacher book "A Wanted Man", by introducing a dim witted deputy named John Puller. I'm sorry I missed the connection. When Reacher met Puller and found he was a dim wit, he said "Were you dropped on your head as a baby?" ROFL!

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