From February 8, 2012
Having now read several of David Baldacci’s novels, I find humour in the fact that what I remember most about him has nothing to do with those three or four stories, but rather a comment he made on a 9/11 conspiracy documentary that I once saw him on. His comments were to the fact that it would be nigh impossible for the terrorist attacks to be a conspiracy just because of the sheer number of people who would have to be involved. But where does logic fit into the mind of the conspiracy theorist?
Baldacci also said on that program that he could turn anything into a conspiracy, and Divine Justice is proof enough. Centred around Oliver Stone, ex-military soldier, not film director, and his friends in the Camel club. At the beginning of the story we see Stone murder several people of high ranking status, and then escape with the help of a local. He then goes into hiding in a rural mining town called Divine.
We quickly learn that things are not as idyllic as would be surmised from the town’s name. In due course we find out that the warden of the supermax prison that lives in Divine is perpetrating a drug ring. The minters are in on it. In exchange for methadone shots at a nearby town, they transport drugs. When Stone learns of this he’s thrown into that jail and left there to rot by the man who was responsible for his killing the two high-ranking officials in the beginning. Stone was denied medals of honour from the vietnam was because he refused to follow orders. This comes out in the end, as all truth usually does in these types of stories.
One of the faults with popular fiction is the tendency to write characters that are static, or predictable. Though Baldacci’s plot twists keep the reader engaged in the story, it is at the fault of the characters. Perhaps it is my twenty-first century cynicism stepping in, but it does tend to irk me that the characters always have to have an absolutely moral reason for the reprehensible things that they do. Stone is no exception. His family was murdered by the US government, so he responds in kind. Not a nice thing to do, however justified he felt in doing it. And in the end the President basically washes his hands of the whole thing.
Would such a thing happen? And if it did are we better off knowing?
The other point on which I found serious fault with Mr. Baldacci’s writing was on the speech about the costs of mining. He does go on for a bit about what the miner’s suffer for their work, and he goes on to raise the point that people really don’t know the true costs of their electricity. The argument is sound, but misplaced. It felt like a diatribe that he could squeeze in with only the massing connection to the rest of the plot – finding that he had the space, he goes on a bit of a rant. The commentary is a little heavy handed and seems somewhat out of place in the overall narrative.