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

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

by David Baldacci


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Two ex-Secret Service agents must face a dark world of violence, codes, and spies at a secret CIA training camp in this #1 New York Times bestseller about a mystery that could destroy the nation.

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 partner, Michelle Maxwell, who is battling her own personal demons, can he catch a killer...and stop a national threat.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781455550807
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 03/25/2014
Series: Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series , #3
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 39,880
Product dimensions: 0.90(w) x 1.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

David Baldacci is a global #1 bestselling author, and one of the world's favorite storytellers. His books are published in over 45 languages and in more than 80 countries, with over 130 million worldwide sales. His works have been adapted for both feature film and television. David Baldacci is also the cofounder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across America. Still a resident of his native Virginia, he invites you to visit him at and his foundation at


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

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.

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Simple Genius (Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series #3) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 249 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 only negative isn't with this'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.
Anonymous 7 months ago
macjest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Feature a team of former Secret Service agents who become private investigators. Good thriller that kept me guessing.
kakadoo202 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
simple and easy to read. not sure how much of it is simply made up while other thing might be true and that would be scary.
Bonni208 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The plot did keep my attention, but it really didn't seem like it was worthy of 530 pages. I found myself often wanting to 'fast forward,' to see what was going to happen next, skipping the history lessons.
PinkLadies on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love David Baldacci. All his books that I've read are simply thrilling and full of suspense. Though "Simple Genius" is not a bad book, it's not his best. The many twists and turns, unexpected plot diversions and information on science, mathematics and history is a bit much for me.
Talbin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Simple Genius, by David Baldacci, follows ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell as they investigate the suspicious death of a brilliant mathematician, Monk Turing. Turing worked for a mysterious think-tank, located across a Virginia river from the CIA's Camp Peary. Turing also left behind a daughter, the brilliant but possibly autistic Viggie, who holds the clues to her father's mysterious death. At the same time, Michelle Maxwell is trying to come to terms with her own internal demons, which are driving her to hurt herself.Baldacci does a good job of keeping the plot moving along. While the ultimate cause of the conspiracies traced in the book may be a little far-fetched, Baldacci sets up the books' events in such a way that everything makes sense. His characters are a bit more in-depth and realistic than many in this genre. We learn a lot about many of the characters and their motivations, especially Michelle. Overall, a quick and enjoyable read.
dekan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This would be a sequel to Split Second. I quite enjoyed it but it didn't seem to follow very well. I felt like i missed a book in between, like i was dropped into a life in the middle of a sentence. It is still an enjoyable book and good story. I was excited to see where the characters now were. However, they didn't really follow the personality they started with. Especially with Michelle Maxwell. I liked where the story took me, although it was a little vague. It just wasn't true to form. He tried to tie it in and did an okay job of it but it would be better if it was read seperately as an individual book. Still worth the read and interesting. He did a good job at connecting Maxwell and the other character Viggie. Which delvs into physciological and autistic issues.
PaulBerauer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read by the amazing prolific writer of mysteries and conspiracies David Baldacci. And while I'm usually not a huge fan of these types of books (mysteries or cheap/pulp fiction), but this one was pretty darn good.The book follows Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, two former secret service agents who get hired to investigate the mysterious death of a worker at a even more mysterious company. While Sean investigates the original death, the body was found on a nearby CIA training base, Michelle struggles to deal with her inner demons and tries to join up with Sean to help him.Overall, a pretty good book for a pulp fiction mystery. I'll admit that the twist ending (and there always is a twist) took me by surprise. Not an intellectually stimulating book or one that will win any awards, but a good read none the less.
she_climber on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A whole new side to Michelle Maxwell in this one, but I have to say that I still want to be her when I grow up. This was a conspiracy theorists wet dream: secret codes, secret tunnels, mystery CIA training camp, anonymous privately-funded think tank. Love the addition of Horatio Barnes, hope he sticks around for some later books. Speaking of which I can't wait to get to the next in the series!
reneemrobbins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a great mystery. The story contained enough variety to keep the story flowing without loosing interest. The only drawback was the romantic tension between two of the characters. I felt it should have either played or been left out. On a whole this was a good book that I enjoyed, with plenty of action and suspense.
ulfhjorr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Simple Genius was a quick, mostly enjoyable read, perfect for a light summer reading list. Overall, though, it is largely forgettable and not worth investing much time or effort in. The plot is fairly straightforward, and the plot-twists rather formulaic and easily spotted two chapters away. I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend this book, but it's not a terrible read. Baldacci has done much better work.
clik4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Michelle Maxwell, a tough competent ex-Secret Service agent, and Sean King, a strong good-looking, connected risk taker form an unbeatable investigative team. Normally of a robust nature, Michelle is having uncharacteristic emotional problems stemming from an unconscious repressed memory. Sean finds work investigating the death of a mathematical genius at a Virginian think tank, coincidentally across the river from a highly secret CIA property. The reader is compulsively drawn into the discovery of an autistic young girl left alone by the death of her father: the genius Monk Turing. Sean is joined by the emotionally compromised Michelle to investigate yet another suspicious death on the grounds of the think tank. Babbage Town, modeled after Bletchley Park where code breakers worked on German transmissions during World War II, form the colonized area for a computer programming think tank, or is it?David Baldacci weaves a complex story of intrigue with likable characters, to pull the reader though the intrigue of Washington back door politics, the CIA, questionable interrogation tactics, quantum computers, the history of Camp Peary; an unacknowledged CIA property, and psychological mysteries of the personal kind.While the book is fiction, David Baldacci uses some interesting references to real people. Charles Babbage (a name also popping up in the movies ¿Rain Man¿ and ¿National Treasure¿) is considered the father of the programmable computer. Alan Turing was a code breaker working in Bletchley Park and a genetic predecessor of the fictional Monk Turing. David Baldacci creates Champ Pollion, director of Babbage Town from real life Jean-Francois Champollion, a French linguist who worked on deciphering Egyptian codes. The Beale Cipher is an unsolved code believed to reveal an 1800¿s buried treasure. The idea for Simple Genius originated from the Beale Cipher mystery.
Castledweller on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Baldacci never fails to give a good read - especially when it takes place around the area of my home here in Virginia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
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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.