A gentle giant, convicted of a murder he doesn't remember committing, has sat in prison for twenty-five years. Now, sprung from prison by his brother, he must elude capture long enough to expose the identity of the true murderers.
It's a truism that readers who like Grisham's novels often take to Baldacci's, but never has Baldacci's debt to the more veteran author been so evident as in this strong-boned thriller that features the Grishamesque premise of young lawyers who uncover a conspiracy reaching into the U.S. Supreme Court. Baldacci isn't as smooth a writer as Grisham: he'll hop point of view in mid-scene, and the opening sentence of this novel, at least as presented in the review galley, is a run-on. But for foxy plotting, Baldacci is easily Grisham's peer, and his characters are always captivating. Here, the principals are Rufus Harms, a slow-witted black giant who, after decades in a military prison, realizes that, for reasons revealed only at the novel's end, he is morally innocent of the murder for which he's doing time; John Fiske, a cop-turned-lawyer who's drawn into Harms's quest for justice after his younger brother, a Supreme Court clerk interested in Harms's case, is murdered; and Sara Evans, another Supreme Court clerk who joins forces and beds with Fiske. Plenty of cinema-ready action ensues as Harms, aided by his Vietnam vet brother, escapes from prison and Fiske and Sara try to get to him before the conspirators who put Harms behind bars do. The novel's resolution is predictable, however. This isn't Baldacci's most original book, but it's his most generously textured, distinguished by thoughtful delvings into family psychodramatics (of both the Fiske and Harms clans), a nicely rendered romance between two tentative lovers and, adding a welcome and strong backdrop of authenticity to the outlandish turns of events, vivid detailing of the Supreme Court behind closed doors where the truth, apparently, is anything but simple. 500,000 first printing; BOMC main selection; simultaneous TimeWarner audio. (Nov.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Outstanding - couldn't put it down
Posted October 29, 2010 by Bill Hawkins , FresnoWhile all his books are great, I found this story to be particularly absorbing, so well paced it was hard to put it down. Highly recommended.
2 . I really like his style
Posted July 01, 2009 by Gene , Athens ALI am a huge Vince Flynn follower, and since I have read all of his books, I have been looking for an Author who can keep me in suspense. David Baldacci is that Author. I find this particular book to be factual and descriptive. I especially like the length of his chapters. His writing style makes you want to read to the end of each chapter, and then he keeps you coming back for more. I know I will be reading all of David Badacci's work along with Vince.
Grand Central Publishing
November 01, 1999
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Excerpt from The Simple Truth by David Baldacci
At this prison the doors are inches thick, steel; once factory smooth, they now carry multiple dents. Imprints of human faces, knees, elbows, teeth, residue of blood are harvested large on their gray surface. Prison hieroglyphics: pain, fear, death, all permanently recorded here, at least until a new slab of metal arrives. The doors have a square opening at eye level. The guards stare through it, use the small space to throw bright lights at the human cattle on their watch. Without warning, batons smack against the metal with the pop of gun reports. The oldies bear it well, looking down at the floor, studying nothing--meaning their lives--in a subtle act of defiance, not that anyone notices or cares. The rookies still tense when the pop or light comes; some dribble pee down their cotton pants, watch it flow over their black low-quarter shoes. They soon get over it, smack the damn door back, fight down the push of schoolboy tears and belly bile. If they want to survive.
At night, the prison cells hold the darkness of a cave but for odd shapes here and there. On this night a thunderstorm grips the area. When a lightning bolt dips from the sky, it splashes illumination into the cells through the small Plexiglas windows. The honeycomb pattern of the chicken wire stretched tight across the glass is reproduced on the opposite wall with each burst.
During the passage of such light, the man's face emerges from the dark, as though having suddenly parted the surface of water. Unlike those in the other cells, he sits alone, thinks alone, sees no one in here. The other prisoners fear him; the guards too, even armed as they are, for he is a man of intimidating proportions. When he passes by the other cons, hardened, violent men in their own right, they quickly look away.
His name is Rufus Harms and his reputation at Fort Jackson Military Prison is that of a destroyer: He will crush you if you come at him. He never takes the first step, but he will the last. Twenty-five years of incarceration have taken a considerable toll on the man. Like the age rings of a tree, the ruts of scars on Harms's skin, the poorly healed fractures of bone on his skeleton are a chronicle of his time here. However, far worse damage lies within the soft tissue of his brain, within the centers of his humanity: memory, thought, love, hate, fear, all tainted, all turned against him. But mostly memory, a humbling tumor of iron against the tip of his spine.
There is substantial strength left in the massive frame, though; it is evident in the long, knotty arms, the density of Harms's shoulders. Even the wide girth of his middle carries the promise of exceptional power. But Harms is still a listing oak, topped out on growth, some limbs dead or dying, beyond the cure of pruning, the roots ripped out on one side. He is a living oxymoron: a gentle man, respectful of others, faithful to his God, irreversibly cast in the image of a heartless killer. Because of this the guards and the other prisoners leave him be. And he is content with that. Until this day. What his brother has brought him. A package of gold, a surge of hope. A way out of this place.
Another burst of light shows his eyes brimming with deep red, as though bloodied, until one sees the tears that stain his dark, heavy face. As the light recedes, he smooths out the piece of paper, taking care not to make any sound, an invitation to the guards to come sniffing. Lights have been extinguished for several hours now, and he is unable to reverse that. As it has been for a quarter century, his darkness will end only with the dawn.