Book review: Paradise's darkness and mystery in 'The Forgotten'

By Mike Whitmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12 2013 2:30 p.m. MST

"THE FORGOTTEN," by David Baldacci, Grand Central Publishing, $27.99, 432 pages (f)

John Puller Jr. works for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division and has just returned from an arduous and life-changing experience in West Virginia. After receiving a cryptic letter from his aunt in Paradise, Fla., Puller decides to visit and see if he can help her answer questions that have come up in her community. Before he arrives, he is notified that she has died under suspicious circumstances.

David Baldacci’s recent book, “The Forgotten” is a new chapter in the continuing adventures of John Puller and his work solving crimes for the Army. But this time the crime has become personal and he has to step out of his CID role and work freelance. And the crime is not just murder, but delves into slavery and human trafficking. It steps way beyond anything he has ever considered.

Paradise appears to live up to its name with the beauty of the Emerald Coast lapping at the edge of the city. But deeper in Paradise there lurks something more sinister and deadly for those who are called "The Forgotten."

An accomplished writer, Baldacci has produced many books over the years. Most have been in the lawyer/adventure venue, and he has developed quite a large following of readers. The Puller books are a new branch of writing for him, and while they are interesting, they do not seem to have the same tension and tautness found in his other stories.

Much of the dialogue between characters is very ponderous and stilted — especially for characters that are portrayed to be well educated. There is a “plastic” feel to the participants that prevents the reader from really empathizing with their situations. And while Puller is sincere in his efforts to solve his aunt’s death, he seems to have a lack of moral uprightness in some of his other dealings.

Other works by this author have been well written and included characters that felt realistic and approachable. Sadly, this story has many flaws and is not really up to the standards Baldacci has exhibited in the past. The premise for this adventure is different but the application by the author makes it difficult to stick with it to the end.

There is a fair amount of profanity and sexual situations that may be offensive to all. Violence is also very pervasive, with many scenes of explicit, bloody death. This is not a book for teens or young adults.

Mike Whitmer lives in West Valley City. His email is grundelwalken@gmail.com or he blogs at mtwhitmer.blogspot.com.

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