True Blue by David Baldacci

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True Blue by David Baldacci

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Sassy women and smart men (not all of whom are to be trusted) mixed up with the US law and intelligence agencies (ditto!) produces an intelligent clue-laden crime read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: December 2009
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0230706132

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Jamie Meldon, ex-criminal-defence attorney, now in private practice, leaves his office very late one night. He's met by the FBI. Very shortly afterwards Jamie Meldon is dead in a dumpster.

Mace Perry is working out, trying to stay fit, trying to stay sane, trying to stay alive long enough to get out jail in a couple of days' time. Perry was a cop. Under-cover, maverick and darn good at her job. Until she ended up stoned on meth, busted for robbery, convicted and sent down.

Roy Kingman used to play ball in college. He was good too. Just not good enough. So he had to work at the law instead. When private practice didn't turn out so well, he spent a few years as a CJA Attorney (U.S. equivalent of a legal aid lawyer). Then ditched that for commercial work with Shilling and Murdoch. The pay was a lot better, and the work interesting. And safe. He thought.

Kingman is forced to change his mind early one Monday morning when he opens the office fridge to have the late Diane Tolliver tumble out into his arms.

Perry gets out of jail ahead of schedule: one favour that her sister doesn't mind pulling for her. Beth Perry is also a cop. A different kind of cop. Just as smart as, if not smarter than, her sister, she plays by the rules. This (and sheer hard graft) is what got her where she is: D. C. Chief of Police.

Being free isn't enough for Mace, though. She is a cop. Wants to be a cop. Needs to be. As a convicted felon re-instatement is not going to happen. Her only chances are either to prove her innocence (she claims to have been kidnapped, doped, and monumentally set up) – or to solve some really big crime that will see her a national hero and have all previous records wiped clean. She'll settle for either. It's not long therefore before she's assisting (as in interfering) with the Tolliver investigation.

The hunt is on.

True Blue is formulaic crime fiction at its best. Don't be mis-led by that word formulaic. Everything on the planet can be reduced to a chemical formula – from the atom bomb to champagne to you and I. It is how you put the formula together, and what catalysts you add that make the difference.

What we have here is a whole bunch of law enforcement agencies, a couple of unconnected crimes, a well-meaning sociology professor with more money than street-sense and more lawyers than you probably need. Add in a political dimension, a vindictive U.S. attorney with sharp heels and a sharper tongue, and the very real District of Columbia from its gated mansions to its no-go-slums and you have an investigation on your hands.

Baldacci's plot is slick and as believable as you need it to be. The pace matches Perry's Ducati – full-on in the straight, but slowing when the obstacles and frustrations set in. Some of the twists scream their approach, others sneak up. The violence is just that. Vicious. But never over-played. Having caught you with his characters the author's too shrewd to turn you off with unnecessary depictions of the down-side of life on the streets. It's there and you need to know about it, but he doesn't rub your nose in it.

He allows his characters to develop in their own way, emerging through their actions and conversations, and tries to the keep their back-story to the minimum. He doesn't always succeed in the latter possibly telling more than is necessary, but he does it succinctly and certainly doesn't allow it to get in the way of the business at hand.

Mace is archetypal flawed heroine, but it is hard not to warm to her. Kingman is never going to be the hero. Beth's the good two-shoes, and Mona Darnforth the wicked witch of the west. There's a dose of schoolyard petulance in the corridors of courtroom power, but who am I to say that doesn't happen? Minor characters make their mark forcibly in short bursts.

True Blue is the kind of crime novel that engages the intellect rather than the emotion and in that context it succeeds. All in all, an enjoyable read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoyed this, you'll love Harlan Coben. If you're not familiar with his work Tell No-one is as good a place to start as any. You might also appreciate Purged by Peter Laws.

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Buy True Blue by David Baldacci at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy True Blue by David Baldacci at


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