The Camel Club
The Camel Club finds David Baldacci in familiar territory - American politics. The books tends to be little rambling at times but is an engaging read.
The title refers to a group consisting of four conspiracy theorists - men who are convinced that the government is upto no good and whose only aim is to expose its wrongdoings. During one of their clandestine meetings, the men become eyewitnesses to the murder of a Secret Service agent. Their investigation into the murder makes them realize that they have stumbled onto a real conspiracy with far-reaching effects. An aging Secret Service agent becomes their ally as the club and the agent are independently drawn into the massive conspiracy.
Baldacci usually populates his novels with numerous characters and this book continues the tradition and even steps it up a notch. There are so many characters introduced in the first few chapters that I frequently had to refer back to their initial introductions to remember who they were. But the good guys are a likeable bunch. The four conspiracy theorists are unique and interesting and the Secret Service agent, who is nearing the end of his career, is human enough to earn our sympathy. The latter's romance is very cute.
The basic plot itself is quite complicated and the book definitely is not a light read. There are a lot of details on Middle Eastern politics and history, which at some places feels like Baldacci is showing off his research. But the details are admittedly necessary for us to understand the motivations of the people involved.
Baldacci uses obvious - and at times irritating - ways of prolonging the suspense but it works. We know that the bad guys are planning something big but using an MO that reminds us of Day of the Jackal, Baldacci gives us one piece at a time without revealing the big picture. We get tidbits about what each of the players are doing but not enough to understand the entire plan. This makes sure we keep turning the pages.
The final plan, though outrageous, isn't disappointing and its magnitude makes us feel the buildup was deserved. And its always fun seeing how the pieces fall into place. But the proceedings after the plan is executed are anti-climactic. The plan of the bad guys is more than a tad disappointing and though the last section is action-packed, it becomes a little too unbelievable. There is only one good surprise and things come together too conveniently.