Simple Genius by David Baldacci

May 4, 2012

Plot summary (from the publisher): In a world of secrets, human genius is power.

And sometimes it is simply deadly…

A three-hour drive from Washington, D.C., two clandestine institutions face each other across a heavily guarded river. One is the world’s most unusual laboratory, whose goals and funding are a mystery. The other is an elite CIA training camp shrouded in secrecy. Now a man and a woman are about to run a gauntlet between these two puzzle factories, straight into a furious struggle to exploit a potentially world-shattering discovery—and keep some other secrets underwraps forever…

Former secret service agents turned private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have seen their lives splinter around them. Michelle lies unconscious ina hospital bed after a night of suicidal violence. And Sean is forced to take on a thankless investigation into the mutder of a scientist just inside the CIA’s razor-wire fence near Williamsburg, Virginia.

Soon he is uncovering layer after layer of disinformation that shields a stunning world filled with elite mathematics, physicists, war heroes, spies, and deadly field agents. Amid more murder, a seemingly autistic girl’s extraordinary genius, and a powerful breakthrough in the realm of classified codes, Sean soon learns enough to put his life at risk. Now more than ever, he needs Michelle—at her best—to help stop a conspiracy of traitors operating in the shadow of the White House itself.

Warning: Spoilers below!


  • The twist about the Camp Peary director being Valerie instead of Ian and of Ian being the good guy was unexpected. In a book full of telegraphed “surprises”, this one actually had an impact.
  • I also fell for the misdirection regarding Babbage Town. Like Sean and Michelle, my attention was focused there when it should have been on Camp Peary all along.
  • The visual of Michelle’s truck being so garbage-strewn that not even the trace of a seat cushion or floorboard could be seen under the debris reminded me of the first car I ever owned. Hmm, does that mean there’s a deep-rooted psychological problem in my past as well?


  • I hated the Horatio character and didn’t like that he played such a prominent role in this book. It would have been better if he were relegated to a smaller role (occasional consultant) rather than having him dominate 1/3 of the plot.
  • The ending dragged out way longer than it had to. What was the point of that whole thing with Sean and Michelle getting captured, detained, and tortured? Oh, yeah, it was just to show how big and bad the CIA is. *Yawn* That angle is sooo overplayed in “thrillers” and just boring now.
  • Viggie was another stereotypical character that has been done to death in these types of books. A child genius/prodigy who has Asperger’s or something and can’t communicate in a straightforward manner with anyone. Cliche much?
  • The stuff regarding Michelle’s traumatic childhood experience (shooting her mother’s lover during an attempted rape of dear ol’ adulterous Mom) was long, drawn-out, and, yes, BORING.
  • Michelle’s stint in the psych ward seemed like it belonged in a wholly different book. By the time the end of the novel rolled around, I’d forgotten all about that complete waste of time.
  • There were just way too many threads in this book — and none of them were compelling enough to keep my attention.


Simple Genius by David Baldacci is a book rife with problems right from the beginning. From long-winded detours to psychiatric facilities to cookie-cutter characters and cliched situations throughout, this is a novel I had a lot of trouble finishing. There’s very little in the way of entertainment or enjoyment in this one, which is why I give it 1 star out of 5.

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