I had never read a book by David Baldacci prior to this. I honestly had no idea what to expect. And I had no other reading material handy when I started this book. It is unfortunate, but I have become very skeptical of new authors. And by new, I mean new to my experience. It is my understanding that Mr. Baldacci is in fact not new to the literary scene.
A funny thing happened when I picked up this book. I couldn't put it down! I read the first half in one sitting! Admittedly this is one of about three books that I've read from this particular genre. That being said, I claim no extensive or technical knowledge of this genre. But I do know books and I do know what makes a good book.
I can't really complain about Mr. Baldacci's writing style. It certainly doesn't follow the structure, usage and vocabulary of the classics, but neither is it so sophomoric as to be laughable. (I'm sure my usual readers know to which author I refer, thus I will leave it alone and spare you my usual rant.) I found Mr. Baldacci's writing style easy to read and varied enough so as not to become boring.
Mr. Baldacci's characters were interesting and I would say unique. Of course with my limited experience in this genre, I suppose there is the chance that these characters are really not all that unique for this given genre. However, for my limited experiences, I found the characters unique. And one thing that doesn't rely upon my experience of the genre is character development. I will say that the character development was about what I would expect of mainstream literature. It was not exactly surprising, but neither was it completely flat or nonexistent. Given the structure of the story, I would say that the development fit the setting and plot.
And the plot... Well now here is the sticking point for me. I don't know if I've simply read too much for my own good or if writers are just that predictable lately. I found the plot, twists and all, to be rather predictable. I also found much in this book to be rather far fetched. In the opening sequence, Robie (the main character) pulls off what seems to be a rather impossible assassination. And then in the space of a few pages, pulls off another seemingly impossible assassination. Now, I'm no spy nor am I an assassin (obviously), but these scenes really lacked a feeling of reality. It was as if Robie was larger than life., a demigod amongst mere mortals.
Now fast forward to Robie's return home and the introduction of the other main character, Julie. Julie is introduced as a teen from a troubled home that still manages to excel in school and stay out of trouble despite being in and out of the foster system. She sneaks out of her foster home as though it is nothing and apparently has done this fairly often. Again, this all lacks that ring of authenticity so necessary to make it believable.
The circumstances that then bring Robie and Julie together simply are over the top. In fact, everything is over the top. I don't want to give away anything by getting too detailed, but the problems that Robie and Julie face as they work through the mystery that brought them together kept me thinking that if Robie was the professional he had been presented as at the start of the book, then most of what happened to him and Julie really shouldn't have happened.
Despite this, I still liked the book. Maybe the plot was a bit over the top. And, yes, I could predict when the next problem was going to crop up and what that problem was going to be. I found by the time I closed the book, predictability and all, I still enjoyed the book. Somehow, and in a way I simply can't explain, the book worked for me. Perhaps, it was the fact that I did with this book what I do when I watch any of the Fast and Furious movies: I simply threw away the laws of physics, ignored the little voice in my head that said, No way! That wouldn't fly. The cops would be all over that in a hot minute! and just enjoyed the book for what it is: entertainment. Not everything has to be realistic to be enjoyable. If that were the case, there wouldn't be a science fiction of fantasy genre at all and fictional books dealing with the military, FBI, CIA, law enforcement, etc. simply wouldn't exist. So, when you read this book, give the little voice in your head the day off and just enjoy the book.
As for the audience this book is appropriate for: I would say very mature older teens and adults. There is no graphic sex, however there is a lot of killing. As I often say: a really whole lot! And some of it is disturbing. In fact, my son is 17 and I would not hand him this book and tell him it was a good book and give it a read. I would also recommend that some of my gentler readers simply not even attempt this book. If you don't enjoy shows like Criminal Minds, I wouldn't recommend this book for you. If Criminal Minds makes you uncomfortable, read something else.
All things considered, The Innocent by David Baldacci will make a good weekend read this winter. And if you like it enough, Mr. Baldacci has plenty of other books both in his series about Robie and in his other series. You will certainly not lack for reading material if you wish to explore more of his books.