A bestselling American novelist, David Baldacci has a worldwide following, and, with his thrillers being some of the best in the genre, he’s a writer at the forefront of his field. Creating a highly recognizable brand for himself, he’s extremely gifted at building suspense, expertly pacing the tension throughout. Producing countless series and stand-alone titles, he’s also ventured into the Young Adult market as well, creating novels and stories for all ages. Similar to many other commercial authors in his area, he really knows his audience and who he’s writing for, but it’s also the passion with which he writes that makes his work so compelling.
Starting out back in 1996 with the novel Absolute Power, he’d make a considerable impact with his debut release. This would be a thriller featuring a man on the run after watching a murder with huge political implications, as governmental forces seek to keep what happened quiet. Whilst this would be the first of many stand-alone novels, Baldacci would later go on to publish many series too, the first of which he’d start in 2003 with the book Split Second. This would see the beginning of the ‘Sean King and Michelle Maxwell’ collection of novels, following two former Secret Service Agents. He’d also write other franchises, along with seven novels for younger readers, thus securing his status as a versatile and consistently evolving author.
In time his work would also make it to the big-screen, with his first novel being made into a 1997 feature film starring Clint Eastwood, who’d also direct it. There’s also other various adaptations of his work, such as the 2013 film of his novel Wish You Well, along with The Christmas Train for the Hallmark channel in 2017. Winning countless awards over the course of his writing career, including the ‘Honorary Platinum Nielsen Bestseller Award’ during the London Book Fair, he’s not without critical acclaim either. Translated into over 45 different languages across 80 countries, his writing career is an impressive one with plenty of notable highlights.
Best David Baldacci Books
These are what I personally feel my own top five highlights are from his writing career:
See at Amazon#5: Memory Man (2015)
Featuring the former professional football player turned police detective Amos Decker for the first time, this sees him involved in an accident on the pitch which leaves him with the side-effect of never being able to forget anything. Years later he returns home one night to find his entire family killed, with his wife, daughter and brother-in-law having been brutally murdered, leaving him distraught and alone. Losing his job and his home he becomes a private investigator, only to find that years later the killer has apparently turned himself in, and now Decker must remember his past to bring those responsible to justice.
This is a strong series opener, perfectly setting up the character of Amos Decker, establishing both him and the world he inhabits. Not pulling any punches, the story itself doesn’t hold back at any point either, being tough as it needs to be when portraying the tragedy in Decker’s life. Giving him a strong personality, it’s a clever story with plenty of twists and turns, setting up the books to come with expert precision.
See at Amazon#4: Absolute Power (1996)
During a burglary, the professional and somewhat grizzled cat burglar Luther witnesses, from behind a two-way mirror, the American president murdering a billionaire’s wife. This leads to him being implicated in a conspiracy and going on the run, as the powers that be seek to keep what he saw quiet and out of the public eye. Looking to defend him is the former fiancée of his daughter, now a public defender, who soon also finds himself immersed in the shadowy conspiracy.
The first novel that Baldacci wrote, this is a great starting point for him as an author, showing him in the early stages of his development as a commercial writer. It’s also him at his most raw, showing a clear love of the genre, giving the story a tightly weaved narrative that’s impressive for a writer at that stage in his career. The fact that a film was made from it too also comes as no surprise, as it’s definitely a very visual novel, with strong, vivid descriptions throughout.
See at Amazon #3: The Innocent (2012)
Will Robie is a hitman working underneath society’s radar, as he’s the one the government call in as last resort. Operating outside the system, he doesn’t question his orders, getting the job done by any means necessary, that is until he’s given a mission that raises his alarm bells. Refusing a job for the first time in his life, he’s now on the run himself with a target on his back, as he meets a wayward teenager and orphan who is also on the run, leading to him taking her under his wing.
Constantly twisting and turning, the reader never quite knows who to trust and when, as it’s a strong opener to the Will Robie series. With Robie himself as the moral center to it all though, it’s well paced, with a compelling and exciting narrative that really carries the reader along. Knowing exactly when to divulge plot information, Baldacci proves himself to be extremely adept at suspense here, in what is one of his most compelling reads.
See at Amazon#2: Wish You Well (2000)
Living in New York City in 1940, Louisa Mae Cardinal resides there happily with her family, that is until tragedy befalls them. Going to live on the farm of their great-grandmother out in the mountains of Virginia, Louisa and her brother Oz must make a new life for themselves with their now invalid mother. Coming-of-age here, their fates are soon to be determined in the courtroom, as they clash with the forces of greed and justice, in a fight for their future.
Taking a departure from his usual thriller fare, Baldacci proves himself to be an extremely versatile author, with this simple story of childhood. It’s a poignant and touching portrayal of growing up and understanding what’s important in the world and finding your place within it. Full of emotion, it never once loses itself in sentimentality, with Baldacci proving to be a gifted writer balancing many ideas and themes at once.
See at Amazon#1: The Camel Club (2005)
Investigating various political conspiracies upon the fringes of society, a group of four men, each with their own dysfunctions, regularly meet in Washington DC to uncover the truth. Led by a mysterious individual known as ‘Oliver Stone’, they soon witness a murder, leading to them uncovering a very real conspiracy of epic proportions. Teaming up with a Secret Service agent, they must now deal with a potentially Earth shattering event that could have apocalyptic results if it were to happen on American soil.
Whilst this may not be everyone’s favourite, I personally found the whole novel intriguing, and gripping me from the outset. This is Baldacci doing what he does best, having fun and drawing the reader in through an exciting premise, constantly posing them questions that leave them desperately searching for the answers. Set in a shadowy world, the whole atmosphere is extremely immersive too, leaving the reader with a sense of foreboding; a feeling which lingers over the series to follow.
Best Authors To Read If You Like David Baldacci:
Daniel Silva: Writing thriller and espionage novels, Daniel Silva is known for his gripping compelling style of action, keeping the reader glued to the page. Much like Baldacci, he consistently features numerous twists and turns, holding the reader there with fun and entertaining narratives. Using many of the more traditional tried and tested methods of the spy novel, he updates them, keeping them fresh and exciting in the process.
Lee Child: Geared more towards action, James Grant, writing under the name of Lee Child, is a British author with a keen eye for building tension. Keeping the reader hooked, his writing career has focused on the character of Jack Reacher, and building an entire franchise around him. With films and a forthcoming Amazon Prime television series adaptation, Jack Reacher is definitely a character for those that enjoy fast paced stories and nail-biting world-building novels.
Zoë Sharp: Writing numerous mysteries and thrillers, Zoe Sharp is probably best known for her Charlie Fox series of novels. Nominated for awards on multiple occasions, this British author is highly regarded for her singular voice and masterful use of suspense. Often writing from experience, she’s lived an active life, something which also clearly shows in her work, with it being highly authentic in its grounded approach to storytelling.
Michael Connelly:A mainstay of the thriller genre for many years now, Michael Connelly is extremely adept at writing character driven drama. This is evident in his Harry Bosch series of novels, which themselves have gone on to become a highly popular television series for Amazon Prime too. Well researched and expertly crafted, he shows a clear understanding of the genre he’s working in, whilst making it easy to relate to in a wholly real way.
Karin Slaughter: Gritty and grounded, Karin Slaughter is an American novelist who, much like Baldacci, shows a real understanding of the crime and mystery thriller as an art-form. Writing the Will Trent and Grant County novels, she has published series in countless countries, bringing in readers from all over the world. Many of her books and series also intersect, making her work highly immersive, which goes some way towards explaining her ever popular appeal.
Best Podcasts If You Like David Baldacci:
The B&N Podcast – David Baldacci: Giving a straightforward interview about his life and work, Baldacci here speaks about his 2019 thriller novel ‘Redemption’ and how he came to write it. Looking into everything up to that point, it’s a fascinating insight into his creative process as an author.
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy – David Baldacci: Featuring an interview with the author himself, this then proceeds to break down his novels with the resident host experts. Getting inside the stories, it’s a great show for fans and newcomers alike.
Northern Virginia Community College – David Baldacci on Being a Novelist: Speaking about his craft, David Baldacci takes a look at what goes into his work, and how he forms his ideas. Presented through a video-based format too, these lectures are highly informative for fans of the author.