The Camel Club by David Baldacci

February 10, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): It exists at the fringes of Washington, D.C., has no power, and consists solely of four eccentric and downtrodden members whom society has forgotten. Their simple goal is to find the “truth” behind their country’s actions.

One man leads this aging, ragtag crew. He has no known past and has taken the name “Oliver Stone.” Day and night, Stone and his friends study wild conspiracy theories, current events, and the machinations of government, hoping to discover some truth that will hold America’s leaders accountable to its citizens. Yet never in Stone’s wildest nightmares could he imagine the conspiracy the Camel Club is about to uncover…

After witnessing a shocking murder, the Club is slammed headfirst into a plot that threatens the very security of the nation, full of stunning twists, high-stakes intrigue, and global gamesmanship rocketing to the Oval Office and beyond. Soon the Club must join forces with veteran Secret Service agent Alex Ford, who becomes an unwilling participant in one of the most chilling spectacles to ever take place on American soil. It’s an event that may well be the catalyst for the long-threatened Armageddon between two different worlds, and all that stands in the way of this apocalypse are five unexpected heroes.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • I liked that Agent Simpson was allowed to die. That might sound harsh, but I don’t necessarily mean it in a bad way. I mean that most writers might have been tempted to have Oliver Stone miraculous save her so there could be a cheesy father-daughter reunion at the end. While I don’t understand why Simpson had to be Stone’s long-lost daughter in the first place, at least the contrivance only went so far.
  • Alex Ford seems like a decent character. I was much more interested in him than in Oliver Stone; it’s just too bad he had to share the spotlight with Stone throughout this one. I liked that Ford wasn’t some “super agent” like Tom Hemingway. He made his share of mistakes along the way, which helped me identify with him more.
  • I kinda liked the low-tech approach of the Camel Club. They didn’t have so much as a couple of compaq desktops to their name, but they were still able to figure out what was going on just from careful observation and analytical reasoning. Sometimes that’s a refreshing change from books where the protagonists have all the latest spy gadgets at their disposal.

Disliked:

  • Middle Eastern terrorists in a plot against the post-9/11 United States… ho hum. And did the writer actually attempt to justify their hateful feelings toward America?
  • What was the significance of Jamillah writing down the exact date and time of her death. Baldacci seemed to make a point of mentioning that little tidbit several times. Was that supposed to mean something to readers?
  • Calling off the nuclear launch with just one minute left was pretty predictable and is something that has been done to death in other books, television shows, and movies. Yawn. Seriously, why do writers even bother using the threat of a nuclear attack as a means of ratcheting up tension in a book? Of course such an attack would be stopped in time. It would have been much better to make the central issue whether or not the kidnappers would kill the president.
  • Speaking of kidnapping the president, why would the group go to all that trouble and risk to pull off a major plot like that only to say that they would release him — unharmed — regardless of whether or not their demands were met? Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to what I was reading, but I completely missed the motivation behind the kidnapping.
  • Oliver Stone as a pseudonym? Meh. I know it was supposed to be clever because of the whole conspiracy theory connection, but I found the choice uninspiring (but maybe that’s just because I don’t like the real Oliver Stone).

Rating:

The Camel Club
by David Baldacci was more or less the kind of book I expected from this author. It had the requisite focus on the Secret Service, a nefarious plot that is uncovered at the last moment, and fairly decent pacing. The result is a quick read that was just entertaining enough to keep me going to the end. I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

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