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Simple Genius (Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series #3)

Simple Genius (Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series #3)

3.9 234
by David Baldacci

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In a world of secrets, human genius is power.
And sometimes it is simply deadly . . .

Near Washington, D.C., there are two clandestine institutions: the world's most unusual laboratory and a secret CIA training camp. Drawn to these sites by a murder, ex-Secret Service agent Sean King encounters a dark world of mathematicians, codes, and


In a world of secrets, human genius is power.
And sometimes it is simply deadly . . .

Near Washington, D.C., there are two clandestine institutions: the world's most unusual laboratory and a secret CIA training camp. Drawn to these sites by a murder, ex-Secret Service agent Sean King encounters a dark world of mathematicians, codes, and spies. His search for answers soon leads him to more shocking violence-and an autistic girl with an extraordinary genius.

Now, only by working with his embattled partner, Michelle Maxwell, can he catch a killer...and solve a stunning mystery that threatens the entire nation.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
"Compulsively readable...Baldacci, always strong on suspense...finds his voice here. The best entry in the series."
Midwest Book Review
"Exciting...good fun and fast-paced."
Washington Post Book World
"Keeps a reader turning pages."
From the Publisher
"Compulsively readable...Baldacci, always strong on suspense...finds his voice here. The best entry in the series."—Booklist (starred review)

"Exciting...good fun and fast-paced."—Midwest Book Review

"Keeps a reader turning pages."—Washington Post Book World

Publishers Weekly

Last seen in Split Second(2003), former Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have reached a crisis in their relationship in this less than compelling Washington political thriller from bestseller Baldacci. When Maxwell instigates a fight with the most intimidating bruiser she could find at a local bar and lets herself be beaten unconscious, despite her superior fighting skills, her partner suggests she voluntarily commit herself to a psychiatric facility. While Maxwell reluctantly undergoes treatment to find the childhood roots of her death wish, King probes the suicide of a scientist found on the grounds of Virginia's Camp Peary, a mysterious CIA facility. Both mysteries are fairly run of the mill, lacking the sharp twists and expert pacing that characterize Baldacci's fiction at its best. (Apr. 24)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
With former Secret Service agent Michelle Maxwell in a psychiatric institution (following Hour Game), partner Sean King consoles himself by agreeing to investigate a murder at an exclusive scientific retreat--where a lot of suspect characters have ties to the institution tending Maxwell. Will the two team up to figure out what's happening? You bet. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Murders, kidnappings, international conspiracies, internecine warfare between alphabet agencies, mad scientists and, oh yes, buried treasure, as Baldacci pours it on. Michelle Maxwell and Sean King, once of the Secret Service, but now, reductively, P.I.s chasing the industrial security buck, return in Baldacci's 13th (The Collectors, 2006, etc.) to face a sea of troubles. For one thing, Michelle may be cracking up. We know this because in the opening scene she ventures into exactly the wrong Washington D.C. bar and picks a fight with exactly the wrong Neanderthal. She's almost killed, which, it turns out, might well have been the aim of the game. Instantly, Sean nudges her into a "facility" where she can be restored to mental health by world-class though unconventional psychologist Horatio Barnes, Sean's old friend. (We know how far from hidebound he is because he wears jeans and black t-shirts and drives a Harley.) Restoring Michelle to mental health does not come cheap, so Sean takes on a gig that connects him to a certain high-powered and mysterious enclave in Virginia called Babbage Town. Baggage Town is high-powered because the scientists who work on its behalf are super bright, and it's mysterious because no one really knows what they're working on-except that a breakthrough could bring "the world as we know it to a screeching halt." There, Sean finds the adorable Viggie, an 11-year-old girl genius (mathematics) who is targeted by various nasty types attempting to exploit her. Soon the customary battle ensues. Fortunately, Michelle recovers sufficient mental health to blow the facility and resume the partnership, arriving in time to earn again the thanks of a grateful . . . makethat world. Lamer than usual. Has the formula at last run thin enough to keep Baldacci off the bestseller list?Agent: Aaron Priest/Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency
"Compulsively readable...Baldacci, always strong on suspense...finds his voice here. The best entry in the series."

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series , #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
0.90(w) x 1.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Simple Genius

By David Baldacci

Warner Books

Copyright © 2007 Columbus Rose, Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-58034-2

Chapter One

THERE ARE FOUR ACKNOWLEDGED WAYS of meeting your maker: You can die by natural causes including illness; you can die by accident; you can die by another's hand; and you can die by your own hand. However, if you live in Washington, D.C., there is a fifth way of kicking the bucket: the political death. It can spring from many sources: frolicking in a public fountain with an exotic dancer who is not your wife; stuffing bags of money in your pants when the payer unfortunately happens to be the FBI; or covering up a bungled burglary when you call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home.

Michelle Maxwell was currently stalking the pavement in the nation's capital, but because she wasn't a politician, that fifth choice of mortal exit was not available to her. In fact, the lady was focused only on getting so wasted she'd wake up the next morning with a chunk of her memory gone. There was much she wanted to forget; much that she had to forget.

Michelle crossed the street, pushed open the bullet-pocked door of the bar and stepped inside. The smoke hit her first, some of it actually from cigarettes. The other aromas were rising off substances that kept the DEA jacked up and in business.

Brain-piercing music crushed all other sounds and would provide an army of hearing specialists with lucrative business in a few years. While glasses and bottles clinked, a trio of ladies ground it out on the dance floor. Meanwhile, a pair of waitresses juggled trays and bad attitudes, all the while prepared to slug anyone attempting to grab their ass.

The bar's collective attention turned to Michelle, the only WASP in the house this or probably any other night. She looked back at them with enough defiance that they returned to their drinks and talk. That status could change because Michelle Maxwell was tall and very attractive. What they didn't realize was that she could be nearly as dangerous as a bomb-wrapped terrorist and was looking for any reason to put her foot through someone's front teeth.

Michelle found a corner table in the back and wedged in, nursing her first drink of the night. An hour and more drinks later, the woman's rage began to swell. Her pupils seemed to grow dry and harden, while the rest of the eyeball eased to a blood red. She lifted a finger at the passing waitress who satisfied her thirst one last time. Now all Michelle wanted was a target for the fury that had laid claim to every square inch of her.

She swallowed the last drop of alcohol, stood and whipped her long dark hair out of her face. Michelle's gaze zoned the room grid-by-grid looking for the lucky one. It was a technique the Secret Service had pounded into her head until that instinct of observation became the only way she could look at anything or anyone ever again.

It didn't take long for Michelle to find the man of her crystallizing nightmare. He was easily a head taller than anyone else in the place. And that head was chocolate brown, bald and beautifully smooth with a column of gold rings stacked in each thick earlobe. His shoulders spanned about a mile. He wore baggie camouflage pants, black military boots and an Army green shirt that showed bare arms full of knotted muscles. He stood there sipping his beer, swaying that big head to the beat of the music, mouthing trash lyrics it was impossible even to hear. Definitely her kind of guy.

Michelle shoved aside a man who stepped in front of her, walked up to this living mountain and tapped him on the shoulder. It felt like she was touching a block of granite; he would do very nicely. Tonight, Michelle Maxwell was going to kill a man. This man, in fact.

He turned, slipped the cigarette from his lips and took a swig of beer, the mug barely visible in his bear paw of a hand.

Size did matter, she reminded herself.

"What's up, baby?" he said, idly blowing a smoke ring to the ceiling and taking his gaze off her.

Wrong move, baby. Her foot connected with his chin, and he staggered backward, knocking down two smaller men. The impact sent a shock wave of pain from Michelle's toes to her pelvis, so hard was his chin.

He tossed the mug at her; it missed, but her slashing front kick didn't. He bent over as air was torn from his gut. Michelle next slammed a vicious kick to his skull with such force she could almost hear his vertebrae screaming over the apocalypse of the music. He fell back, one hand pressed against his bloody head, eyes wide in panic at her raw power, at her speed and precision of attack.

Michelle calmly eyed both sides of his thick, quivering neck. Where to hit now? The trembling jugular? The pencil-thick carotid? Or perhaps the chest cavity, throwing his heartbeat into a fatal misfire? And yet it looked like the fight had gone out of the man.

Come on, big boy, don't disappoint me. I came all this way.

The crowd had cleared back except for one woman who streaked off the dance floor, screaming her man's name. She aimed a meaty fist at Michelle's head, but Michelle deftly sidestepped the charge, grabbed her attacker's arm, bent it behind her and gave her a push. The lady kept right on going, taking down a table and two patrons sitting there.

Michelle turned back to confront the boyfriend, who was doubled over, breathing hard and clutching his gut. He suddenly made a bull run at her. That charge was halted by a crushing kick to his face, followed by an elbow thudding against his ribs. Michelle finished this off with a neatly executed side-kick that disrupted a good bit of the cartilage in his left knee. Screaming in pain, the big man dropped to the floor. The fight had now turned into a slaughter. The silent crowd took one collective step back, unable to believe David really was kicking the crap out of Goliath.

The bartender had already called the cops. In a place like this, 911 was the only number on the speed dial besides the lawyer's. From the looks of things it was doubtful they would be in time, though.

The big man managed to stand straight up on his one good wheel, blood running down his face. The swells of hatred in his eyes said everything that needed to be said: Either Michelle had to kill him or he was going to kill her.

Michelle had seen that same look on the face of every son of a bitch she had ever kicked the male ego out of and that list was impressively long. She'd never started one of these fights before. They usually resulted from a thick-headed slob hitting on her and not reading the not-so-subtle cues she sent back. Then she would stand up to defend herself and the men would fall down, with an imprint of her boot on their knuckled heads.

The blade whipped at Michelle after being pulled from the mountain's back pocket. She was disappointed by both the choice of weapon and the feeble thrust. She sent the knife sailing away with a well-aimed kick that broke one of the man's fingers.

He retreated until his back touched the bar. He didn't seem so big now. She was too fast, too skilled, his superior size and muscle were useless.

Michelle knew that with one more shot she could kill him: a snap of the spine, a crushed artery; either way he was six feet under. And from the look on his face, he knew it too. Yes, Michelle could kill him and maybe vanquish the demons inside her.

And that's when something snapped inside Michelle's brain with such ferocity that she almost deposited all the booze in her belly on the heel-scarred floor. For perhaps the first time in years Michelle was seeing things as they were really meant to be seen. It was startling how fast the decision was reached. And once she made it, she did not revisit the issue. She fell back on what had dominated her life: Michelle Maxwell acted on impulse.

He threw a weary punch and Michelle easily sidestepped it. Then she aimed another kick, this time at his groin, but he managed to clamp a big hand on her thigh. Reenergized at having finally seized his elusive quarry, he lifted her up and threw her over the bar and into a shelf of wine and liquor bottles. The crowd, delighted at this change of events, started chanting, "Kill the bitch. Kill the bitch."

The bartender screamed in fury as his inventory spilled over the floor, but he stopped when the big man came over the bar and laid him out with a wicked uppercut. Next, he picked Michelle up and twice slammed her headfirst into the mirror that was hanging over the demolished booze, cracking the glass and maybe her skull too. Still enraged, he drove a massive knee right into her gut, and then threw her to the masses on the other side of the bar. She hit the floor hard and lay there, her face bloody, her body going into spasms.

The crowd jumped back when the big man's size sixteen boots landed next to Michelle's head. He grabbed her by the hair and lifted her straight up, her body dangling like a spent yo-yo. He studied Michelle's limp form, apparently deciding where next to hurt her.

"In the face. In the damn face, Rodney. You mess it up good," screamed his lady, who'd picked herself off the floor and was dabbing at the beer, wine and other crap staining her dress.

Rodney nodded and swung a big fist back.

"Right in the damn face, Rodney!" his lady screamed again.

"Kill the bitch!" barked the crowd a little less enthusiastically, sensing the fight was just about over and they could return to their drinking and smoking.

Michelle's arm moved so fast Rodney didn't even seem to realize he'd been struck in the kidney until his brain told him he was in awful pain. His scream of fury actually drowned out the music still ripping from the bar's sound system. Then his fist connected to her head, once, knocking a tooth out; and then he hit her again; blood gushed from her nose and mouth. Big Rodney was hauling back for the crusher when the cops kicked down the door, guns out, looking for any reason to start shooting.

Michelle never heard them come in, save her life and then arrest her. Right after the second blow landed she started to fade into unconsciousness and didn't expect to be coming back.

Before she blacked out completely Michelle's final thought was simple: Goodbye, Sean.

The events and characters in this book are fictitious. Certain real locations and public figures are mentioned, but all other characters and events described in the book are totally imaginary.


Excerpted from Simple Genius by David Baldacci Copyright © 2007 by Columbus Rose, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

David Baldacci lives with his family in Virginia. He and his wife have founded the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across America. He invites you to visit him at www.davidbaldacci.com and his foundation at www.wishyouwellfoundation.org.

Brief Biography

Northern Virginia
Date of Birth:
August 5, 1960
Place of Birth:
Richmond, VIrginia
B.A. in Political Science, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1982; J.D., University of Virginia, 1986

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Simple Genius (Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series #3) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 234 reviews.
SlapShot62 More than 1 year ago
I've read almost all of the Baldacci works, including each of the Camel Club and Sean King/Michelle Maxwell series books. This was one was very very good, but of all the books in the two series? Probably at the bottom - and that is NOT a knock on the story. If you enjoy Baldacci and the other King/Maxwell adventures, grab this one too. Plenty of action, twists and turns and surprises throughout. My only complaint was that it bogged down SLIGHTLY where it was not necessary. Having said all that, this is a solid, if not spectacular story line, replete with disturbing realities, hard fought action, edge of your seat bumps in the ride.....well worth the money and the enjoyment of reading it!
BolivarJ More than 1 year ago
Baldacci's Simple Genius is a hard to crack thriller!!! There may be a lot of reasons why people may like or dislike this book, However; you have to take into account the following facts: Simple Genius has a great plot. Featuring Sean King and Michelle Maxwell investigating a mysterious death at a scientific think tank called Babbage Town, located suspiciously close to the CIA's most infamous yet covert training camp--"The Farm". In Babbage Town, the security is tight as the world's great geniuses race to invent technologies powerful enough to conquer the most sophisticated microprocessor. Baldacci is great developing the main characters throughout the book, I like the opening chapter that gives a background storyline for M Maxwell, he clearly states both characters reprising their roles and giving them enough credibility. The concept story in the book is amazing and original. I see a few writers these days write a book that is more than four hundred pages, and still have enough material to make it interesting. Baldaccis accomplishes that and more. Simple Genius is not a fast page turner; however; it keeps readers engaged as every chapter ends. Uncovering the war against terror, the conspiracies among federal agencies, and the race of powerful nations to stop the world in its tracks, Baldacci combines the strength of its characters, and exploits cracking code scientists, along with a beautiful scenario where everything takes place. Simple Genius is great read.
DrRoger More than 1 year ago
I've read a number of DB's series.....Very enjoyable...he weaves a good story web...well developed characters. As soon as I'm done with one of the series, I hurriedly buy the next one....my only negative isn't with this book....it's with the author...I want more Camel Club series books....but Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are fine.
kingjack44 More than 1 year ago
Another novel that puts you right in the middle, not knowing where to turn next. Can't put it down till you're there. Nonstop action, and suspense.
PureJonel More than 1 year ago
Wow!  Just wow!  This novel engaged me on multiple levels.  I loved the variety of components that made up this novel.  Suspense, action, intrigue, and science all make their way into it.  Baldacci’s intricate writing really enticed me.  Not only was I caught up in the action of the tale, I was also trying to unravel the mystery and was completely smitten with the science. The characters were fantastic.  Even though this isn’t the first novel of the series, Baldacci develops his man characters in such a manner that readers can get to know them from here, without rehashing past events.  They were remarkably well developed individuals, so real and human and complex.  I found myself drawn to them.  I also enjoyed the variety of secondary characters that we get to know. The diversity of cast really allows you to see all off the sides of the story. I’ll admit that this was my first foray into the world of Baldacci’s writing but it definitely won’t be my last.  I was completely enamoured with this tale.  He had me hooked every step of the way.
Eudy_Knight More than 1 year ago
Maxwell thinks she may be a little nuts; her actions certainly prove so. This third installment of the King and Maxwell series is possibly Baldacci's best effort with the characters. While there is the ever present high explosive situations, these rate higher on the believability scale than in the previous editions. It's fun to see the main characters development towards each other while experiencing some self revelations. As most of these plots go, it's a little farfetched but what if it were possible? Fun and intriguing to imagine. If you've made it through #'s 1 & 2, you owe it to yourself to give this one a go. If you haven't read any of the prior installments, you can certainly pick up here without missing too much at all. If so, you'll find yourself back at B&N looking for the prior escapades!
Thank_God_I_Have_Books More than 1 year ago
The language is too elementary and the conversation seems unrealistic. Baldacci seemed to be struggling with trying to get the story to make sense; an odd ending made it seem like he just needed to get the book to end. The characters seemed contrived and uncreative. If you pay for this book, you've spent too much.
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Henry_McLaughlin More than 1 year ago
Simple Genius by David Baldacci A King & Maxwell Novelist Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are caught up in a thriller of government corruption, high-level research into a super computer, and multiple murders. With more twists and turns than a corkscrew including Michelle’s determination to get herself killed.  The characters are well drawn including a super genius, emotionally fragile child, the daughter of a murdered man, who can only relate to Michelle. After several harrowing escapes from death, including by their own government, King and Maxwell uncover the secrets and hidden agendas and the warped mastermind behind it all.  Along the way, Michelle faces her own demons and battles on two fronts to save her partner and solve the mysteries of why she wants to die. An enthralling story that keeps you riveted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. David Baldacci's fast paced style and unusual twists and turns kept me from putting the book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
FarmgirlPM More than 1 year ago
COuld not put this book down - especially at the end. What a twist!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My book
ljethrogibbs46 More than 1 year ago
One of his best!  I really love the Camel Club series, but this entry in the King/Maxwell series was outstanding.  Watch for the character names (explained at the book's end) -  I particularly liked "Champ Pollion".  Lots of plot twists right up til the end.  Hardly anyone is who they seem to be.  I don't agree that the story bogged down at any point.   It was a real fast  read.  With what we continually learn about the "inner workings" of the govt. & its intelligence agencies,  this plotline may not be far from the truth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WritermomHB More than 1 year ago
David Baldacci has brought Sean King and Michelle Maxwell back in a smoothly written detective story involving CIA, FBI, national security and many smart people. Genius is power, after all. And there’s plenty in this story. The author hooks the reader at the very beginning, and keeps him/her right with him until the last page. This is a very enjoyable read for those who enjoy either Baldacci’s writing or any well-written mystery/detective story with no blatant sexuality. I recommend it to those who meet those requisites. I love the King and Maxwell characters, which I met in the TV series prior to learning that this author created them. Well done, Mr. Baldacci!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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cssFL More than 1 year ago
I'm enjoying the series. Started @ #1 and will read them all.
rfisher916 More than 1 year ago
I have read a lot of David Baldacci's books and loved everyone of them. He keeps you in suspense from beginning to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great book in the King & Maxwell series.