“Simple Genius” by David Baldacci
Rating: 4 Water Towers
Secret Service agents, and now Private Investigators, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell were first introduced in Baldacci’s “Split Second”, then readers were surprised (Baldacci’s previous books were all stand-alone) when they appeared again in the “Hour Game”.
Continuing the King / Maxwell series, “Simple Genius” is every bit as good as any Baldacci book I have read…I’ve read them all. Recommendations: Read “Wish You Well” and “The Winner”, they are 5 Water Tower books.
At the end of the “Hour Game” Sean and Michelle have a harrowing experience, and Michelle’s trust in someone is completely shattered. In “Simple Genius”, Sean and Michelle find themselves in hard times and Michelle is suffering a bout of depression that is leading to suicidal tendencies. Throughout the book, Michelle’s past is explored as she is counseled by Horatio Barnes, a Harley motorcycle driving, pony tailed, psychologist. At his and Sean’s urging, Michelle checks herself into a mental health facility where, as luck may have it, in addition to treatment, she actually gets to work, which makes her feel a whole lot better about herself. But, be warned, she is not cured.
While Michelle is in the facility, Sean picks up a PI gig (because he / they REALLY need the money) from an old friend of his, Joan, who runs a very successful PI agency. The task is relatively simple: A man, Monk Turing, was found dead on CIA property at Camp Peary, Virginia. Sean just needs to find out how he died and report back to Joan. The CIA says it was suicide like the 4 others that have occurred in the area in recent times.
As the story unfolds, the death of Monk Turing is much more than it seems. Monk worked across the river from Camp Peary at a think-tank called “Babbage Town”. The folks who work there are all geniuses working to develop a quantum computer that has the ability, when it arrives, to change the world. Is it just circumstance that Babbage Town happens to be located directly across the river from the super secret CIA facility?
As Sean digs deeper into the goings on at Babbage Town, and Camp Peary, another murder occurs and Sean meets Viggie Turing, Monks daughter. A piano playing genius herself, Viggie knows many of the secrets, but, to complicate communication Viggie is very close to being autistic and very few people can reach her.
As the intrigue at Babbage Town deepens to a level where Sean feels over-matched, Michelle who feels better (even though Horatio knows she is still a walking time bomb), joins Sean at Babbage Town to help out. Luckily, Viggie ends up loving and trusting Michelle. Sean, understanding that there are now two people who need counseling, calls Horatio down as well. Now that the A team is together, “Simple Genius” is ready to rock and roll to an exciting and surprising ending.
“Simple Genius” explores technology, secret codes / ciphers, the human mind, and misused power at the highest levels of the CIA. The last 100 pages are page burners as Sean, Michelle, Horatio, Viggie and surprising new friends (believe me, you will be surprised) join forces to uncover the mystery…. and the treasure (Hmmm, I did not mention that there is a treasure involved, and, interestingly a real mystery that could lead to a real treasure).
References to some of the greatest minds in science and technology made “Simple Genius” extra enjoyable for me, yeoldetechy. Alan Turing’s life was detailed very succinctly by Baldacci, and, the names of most of the characters are tributes to these great minds. Check out these links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Babbage , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_L._Rivest , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bletchley_Park , http://davidbaldacci.com/ .
“Simple Genius” is a must read. But do it quick, I believe I am well on the way to deciphering the “Beale Cipher”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beale_Ciphers