4 stars out of 5
Will Robie is a paid assassin, working for the U.S. government in extreme secrecy throughout the darkest and most dangerous places in the world. He is highly successful, disciplined and never misses his target. That is, until one fateful day when he chokes.
His secretive boss, Blue Man, puts him on leave; and because there's some evidence that his sudden change is rooted to unreserved issues from his childhood, he heads back to his old home in rural Cantrell, Mississippi to confront the people and places he left 20 years earlier.
After he left home - and his lawyer father, Dan Robie - Will never went back and never had further contact with his father, who abused his son both physically and mentally. He soon learns that his father - who's since been elected the town judge - is in jail after being charged with murder. Is he guilty? Will doesn't want to believe it, but his contrarian father isn't talking and refuses any help from his son.
Even though he's not even remotely close to his father, Will refuses to turn his back and leave (especially since his father now has a wife about Will's age and a young son - Will's much younger brother). As he begins to investigate, as he meets characters ranging fron seedy and dangerous, and a very different side of his old stomping grounds begins to emerge. Murders just keep piling up, and trying to track down the killers puts Will's own life - and that of his good friend and fellow assassin, Jessica Reel, who's sent to help him - in great danger.
Reading about the usually unemotional Will as he tries to sort out his feelings in what is for him a very different setting makes for an interesting story. Beyond that, though, the rest of the plot stretches the imagination almost to the breaking point (and almost to the point of my assigning the book 3 stars rather than 4). The ending, too, was somewhat disappointing; some loose ends were left hanging - as might be expected - while others were tied up much too easily given the complexity of the situations. I enjoyed this book, but honestly, I'm hoping Will gets his mojo back in time for the next installment.
The Guilty by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing, November 2015); 433 pp.