Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Book Review: David Baldacci's Camel Club Series

Four books comprise David Baldacci's Camel Club series. The novels were intended to be read in the following order:
I stumbled upon book #3 in the series (Stone Cold) quite by accident without knowing that it was part of a larger series. David Baldacci came highly recommended by several friends and I had planned a long trip (12+ hours each way). It was an enjoyable listen so I circled back to to book #1 (The Camel Club), then book #4 (Divine Justice) and finally #2 (The Collectors). Even out of order I found that each book in the series stood on its own merit. A reader can start with Divine Justice and then go back to The Collectors without feeling cheated out of surprises in the earlier book.

My Metric of a good audiobook is that feeling of immersion into the story. The narrator becomes part of the story - transparent to the plot. It's that all important willing suspension of disbelief. The books in the camel club series all met that criteria. The Camel Club series won't have you jumping out of your skin with fear or anticipation - but you will welcome your next commute or roadtrip to get back to Oliver, Milton, Caleb and Ruben - the members of the Camel Club.
The Camel Club
The series (as are all of Baldacci's works) is set in DC and the beltway. As such there is a certain political thriller quality to Baldacci's works. There is a heavy emphasis on the CIA, NSA, FBI and the super secret intelligence community
(particularly the 'Triple Sixes'). Oliver Stone is a former assassin now a cemetery grounds keeper - as a former triple six things aren't always what they appear to be and Oliver is no exception. His government used him and disposed of him when he was no longer useful - literally and figuratively.  Hardened and kind - Oliver is committed to finding the truth in government and politics.The other members of the Camel Club include a bookish librarian Caleb Shaw, a dock worker, vietnam vet and defense agency drop-out Ruben Rhodes and obsessive-compulsive uber geek Milton Farb. Also assisting in their work is Secret Service agent Alex Ford (think Clint Eastwood's character from "In the Line of Fire").  All four main characters are sympathetic and likeable. Exactly why it was so easy to keep going back to each book in the series.

In "The Camel Club", Oliver and the camel club find themselves witness to a murder that is tied into an Islamic plot to take out the president. In a post-9/11 world the threat is plausable and intreging.  There are several subplots that at first blush seem unrelated, however David Baldacci is a master at weaving these distinct threads into one conherant story - and in the end all of the questions are answered..
I often find books in this genre to be somewhat predictable, but I did not have that impression while listening to The Camel Club - and did find myself sitting in my car at my destination hanging on for another 5-10 minutes to finish listening to the chapter.

The Camel Club by David Baldacci is narrated by Jonathan Davis and has a runtime of 16 hours 10 minutes. The Camel Club was released on October 20th, 2005 and is available from Amazon and is an abridged version of The Camel Club with a runtime of 5 hours 39 minutes. I recommend the unabridged version.

The Collectors
The collectors is our introduction to Annabelle Conroy a master con-artist from a long line of con artists. In 
one half of the plot Annabelle and her associates are running a major (expensive) con against the cut-throat owner (Jerry Bagger) of the Pompei Casino in Atlantic City. As it turns out, Jerry Bagger killed Annabelle's mother and her goal is to make him pay for his sins (and general lack of moral fiber). 

Meanwhile back in DC, the Camel Club finds themselves investigating the sudden death of Caleb Shaw's supervisor of the rare books reading room in the library of congress. Caleb is named the executer of Jonathan Tahoven's rare book collection - and the plot twists begin. The Dumbledore-like rare books dealer who shuns technology, the architects that designed the rennovations to the capital and the library of congress and the mysterious DC Public works van that is following the Camel Club all over Washington. In true Baldacci fashion these separate series of events are not as isolated as one might think.  

The Collectors by David Baldacci is narrated by L.J. Ganser and Aimee Jolson and has a runtime of 12 hours and 46 minutes. The Collectors was released on October 9th, 2006 and is available from Amazon and The abridged version has a runtime of 5 hours and 58 minutes. I recommend the unabridged version.

Stone Cold
Stone Cold was my introduction to the Camel Club series. In this case it was the hook that brought me back.

An assassin (Harry Finn) is on the loose, taking out former triple six members (and Oliver's former friends). Harry Finn - a doting husband and father by day and a son avenging the wrongs commited against his family by night.  Alex Ford and Annabelle are back as well, Annabelle is still on the run from casino owner Jerry Bagger (from "The Collectors"). Once again David Baldacci weaves several (and interesting on their own) plots into a coherent tale of government conspiracies, knick of time escapes and fictional thrillers. In my opinion this was the best book in the series and now that I've listened to "The Camel Club" and "The Collectors", I'm planning to go back and listen to Stone Cold again.
Stone Cold is narrated by Ron McLarty  (who narrates a lot of Baldacci's works). Mr. McLarty's presentation of the story is flawless. My measurement of a good narrator is one that becomes transparent to the story. Stone Cold has a runtime of 10 hours and 42 minutes. Stone Cold was released on November 6th, 2007 and is available from Amazon and The abridged version has a runtime of 6 hours and 2 minutes. I recommend the unabridged version.

Divine Justice
Yet another Baldacci and McLarty collaboration. It is hard to review Divine Justice without introducing spoilers from Stone Cold.  Suffice to say, the work does not disappoint,
and if you have enjoyed the previous three Camel Club works you will enjoy Divine Justice. 

Divine Justice by David Baldacci is narrated by Ron McLarty and has a runtime of 11 hours and 37 minutes. Divine Justice was released on November 4th, 2008 and is available from Amazon and The abridged version has a runtime of 6 hours and 2 minutes. I recommend the unabridged version.

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