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VINE VOICEon 30 May 2011
Out of all of Baldacci's series, the Camel Club novels are by far my favourite: The motley band of sleuths and conspiracy theory junkies who have grown over the course of five novels into quite the diverse and capable band of crime solvers, complete with endearing quirks and a hard-nosed and noble former government assassin (who goes by the name `Oliver Stone') as their nominative leader. With "Hell's Corner", Baldacci has written yet another fast-paced and enjoyable thriller, but also one that has a bit of a shaky start, not quite living up to its predecessor, "Divine Justice".

Hell's Corner is Lafayette Park on Pennsylvania Avenue, where the various US governmental jurisdictions overlap (FBI, Park Service, Secret Service, and so on), creating a nightmare of overlapping jurisdictions. After a bomb goes off on Hell's Corner, an investigation into who the perpetrator is gets snarled among the crossed wires and red tape. After being called in over a different assignment altogether, Stone is re-tasked to join this investigation, from the White House's perspective. It's a position that carries plenty of clout, but also quite a few risks and resentments, and Stone's unorthodox methods and well-documented disrespect for authority mean he will inevitably annoy at least a few of the by-the-book and uptight Federal employees he comes into contact with.

The characters that make up both the Camel Club and the wider cast of the novel are well rounded, and the Camel Club members return in their familiar ways - the bickering, the loyalty, the good-natured ribbing (between Reuben and Caleb, particularly). Stone's nobility is laid on with a bit of a heavy hand this time around, which was noticeably absent in previous novels in the series. This wasn't a bad thing per se, but at times it seemed slotted in at the end of chapters just to make the reader really aware of the fact that Oliver Stone is a noble and selfless character. His actions speak to this - there really wasn't much need to repeat certain facts about Stone to get this impression across.

Mary Chapman, the MI6 agent who works alongside Stone is an interesting addition to the cast, and one who works well with Stone (a nice foil, in some ways), but her `British-isms' come a little too frequently: just telling us she's British is enough to make us believe it, the frequent use of "bloody" and "bloke" is unnecessary and ruins it, actually, as we don't use it nearly as much as Chapman does, and people of her generation are just as likely to have been brought up watching plenty of American TV and movies. She came across a bit too uptight-British in their vocal mannerisms - not throughout the novel, but there was a noticeable chunk in the middle where the British-ness seemed ramped up to the max. (This is a very personal complaint about the novel, as I am always annoyed by this sort of thing, so don't come away from this thinking Chapman's a poor copy of Dick Van Dyke-esque English; also, in fairness to Baldacci, he writes better Brits than most other American thriller authors I've read.)

The themes running through the novel are mostly to do with the US government's bureaucratic gridlock - the endless inter-agency competition and brinkmanship, as they jealously guard intelligence and information, keeping it from sister agencies they're supposed to be working with, all in the name of grabbing the attention of Congress and the President - those effectively in charge of the purse-strings. As Stone's investigation gets snarled up by the inter-agency rivalries, he turns to the Camel Club for help and outside advice (unrestricted by Beltway politics). As usual for the Camel Club series, loyalty and friendship are a big part of the story and also the interactions between Stone and his friends and companions, as they pull together to help each other and solve the crime or mystery in question. As mentioned earlier, there's also a large dose of nobility in Stone himself.

There is no doubt that Baldacci's gift for pacing remains entirely intact - each time I meant to pick up Hell's Corner for just a couple of chapters before bed, I ended up blitzing through a good ten chapters (there are over a hundred in total), as each one was paced and plotted just right to keep you reading on and guessing what the outcome might be. There is a refreshingly `classic' antagonist, too, as we move a little further away from the now-tired angle of American agents hunting down Middle Eastern terrorists. That being said, Stone and Chapman are really put through the wringer, as they begin to realise that there is a lot more going on, with a lot more players involved, than they originally thought. The second half of the novel is a real roller-coaster of conspiracy, intrigue and twists - it kept me guessing for a long time, and I usually spot these things early on.

Despite the solid pacing and interesting angle, however, I did find myself wanting a little more for the amount I was reading - certainly in the first third of the novel, in which not a whole lot happens, as Stone and company meet consistent dead ends and roadblocks set up by the various, vying Federal Agencies involved in the bomb investigation. There's almost a painfully slow progression in the investigation, in discovering what's actually going on, so I often found myself a little frustrated (true, this did make it slightly more believable, but it's not what you look for in a thriller). The novel highlights the frustration that government officials and law enforcement must feel in their endless battle against terrorism - never having enough or all of the information, loads of guess-work and the potentially lethal pitfalls for errors.

The novel does, however, contain a couple of interesting twists and nicely-done reveals that kept me guessing for a very long time about what is actually going on. Ultimately, I can say that I enjoyed reading Hell's Corner - it has most of the hallmarks of what makes Baldacci a great author, and one of the top in his field (there's also a surprisingly high body-count). I just hope that, with an increase in output, he doesn't suffer the reduction in quality that oh-so-clearly plagues James Patterson. (I had some issues with Baldacci's "Deliver Us From Evil", too.)

Not the author's best work, "Hell's Corner" is nonetheless recommended for fans of the series, and Baldacci retains his spot as one of my favourite thriller authors.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 14 July 2011
Hell's Corner is the latest outing for Oliver Stone and the Camel Club. As one would expect from David Baldacci, this is quite a fast moving story with lots of twists and turns on the way. I did have a certain amount of conceptual difficulty with the plot this time round. It seemed incredible that the President of the USA would ignore his many acronymic domestic agencies and call on the services of our hero who was not even a Government employee. This is particularly so since, as far as undercover agents go, Stone must be the equivalent of a geriatric. As I read on, I could really not suspend disbelief sufficiently to get, what appeared to me, this basic plot hole out of my mind. Additionally some of the story struck me as being rather far fetched and perhaps over elaborate. The British agent punctuating her narrative with 'bloody' on a regular basis was a particular irritant - clearly that is how the author thinks we Brits speak.

The story starts at Hell's Corner, also known as Lafayette Park which is close to the White House, where a bomb explodes following the area being raked with gunfire and whilst Stone is conveniently on the spot. It has been dubbed Hell's Corner as the area is a tangle of overlapping jurisdictional competition between the many policing agencies. Stone, together with a British agent, Mary Chapman, and later the rest of the Camel Club, investigate these incidents which may or may not be related and where the nature and origin of the perpetrators or indeed, their next move, is far from clear. Complications include the ruthless ability of the culprits to tie up loose ends and the continuing competition between the various Governmental agencies involved who are all very protective of any information they have acquired. There is a huge amount of disinformation circulating resulting in Stone trying to navigate a smoke and mirrors scenario.

The conclusion satisfactorily ties up the loose ends, but did strike me as rather contrived. Despite the shortcomings mentioned above, I found this a good read which, although this is quite a long book of about 600 pages, kept the attention and was at times a page turner. Not Baldacci at his peak by a long way and certainly not his most credible plot, but none the less enjoyable.
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on 14 June 2011
I would have to agree with many of the negative comments already on Amazon. However, I notice a worrying trend. I was also extremely disappointed by the First Family. Typing mistakes, weak and at times unbelievable twists in the story.
I wanted to drop Hells Corner after 50 pages but persevered to my cost. Too long, too repetitive. Poor character definition - hard to believe the villain fell for our hero after about 10 minutes together ! The author needs to take a break. Get back to basics.
I must say I smile when I read the positive reviews of this and one or two other of his recent books. They must have been written by friends and family. Alternatively, they havent read any of Baldacci's earlier work.
I wont be reading anymore of Baldacci until he returns to form.
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on 5 January 2011
As a Baldacci fan I could not wait for the release of this book., but sadly Hell's Corner I was disappointed by the final product! It felt disjointed by too many predictable twists and turns making it difficult to believe the plot. I mean suspension of disbelief is required in this genre but this went beyond the pale. The reader is required to believe that the president has only Oliver Stone, who has been retired for years, to come back and stop the Russians. I love a good conspiracy story but this just did not work for me. If your looking for a good conspiracy thriller try "A Tourist in the Yucatan!"
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on 9 August 2011
I love David Baldacci, he has reawakened my love of reading, and I have read all his previous books, some of them a number of times (something I have never felt compelled to do before). I am convinced however that this book is not one of his.
The Camel club and in particular Oliver Stone are amongst my favourite characters in modern fiction, but in this book, Oliver is a sell out, and his friends are barely paid lip-service. In fact Alex and Finn almost feel as if they warrant a comedy theme tune on the few occasions in which they appear.
The forgettable English character, Miss bloody hell gosh, or whatever she was called (I genuinely can't remember her actual name) grates with each "bloody" she utters and is not a match for any of the previous characters in the earlier books.
I was very reluctant to read this book as I felt the Camel club series was already pretty much perfect, and complete. This book unfortunately "jumps the shark"!
I have recomended the series to many friends, all of whom, without fail have been battering down my door, unable to wait to borrow the next book in line.I have not mentioned this fifth book to them. If they wish to persue it, that is their choice.
I would not recomend this book.
Please Mr Baldacci come back from your well earned holiday, sack this ghost writer and get on with the real business of delivering another "winner".
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on 29 January 2011
I have loved every David Baldacci book I have read (all of them) okay the last few "Camel Club" books have been a little weak, but this was unbelievably disappointing!

The plot was quite simply ridiculous, the Camel Club was merely a token gesture, this was your first Baldacci you would not have a clue who or what the characters were.

This must have been written in a real hurry! - Avoid at all costs!

Do however read any of his other books!
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on 15 February 2011
This book is a little better than his last, which was diabolical, but PLEASE Mr Baldacci, stay away from the English in future. Such basic, simple errors (MI6 is controlled by the Foreign Office, not the Home Office; British law officers don't have "badges" to flash ....), and as for the use of the English language - did he do his research via a series of 1940s and 50s novels? It isn't, strictly speaking, "wrong", but Oh dear! it grates.

The action is, as always, fast and furious, and the body count is astronomical, but in many ways I'm afraid Baldacci really has "lost the plot" these days.
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Having been a fan of David Baldacci for many years, this book disappointed on every level. The dialog is stilted and the plot is totally implausible. I can't believe that the author can't produce a decent British character, but the one in this book is wooden, clichéd and completely unconvincing. In fact all the characters are unconvincing. Familiar characters from previous books step in and out of the dialogue, but apparently just as a tool to introduce other pieces of the plot/ or maybe red herrings. It barely ranks as a Camel Club book at all. The story doesn't flow and I almost get the feeling that someone else wrote it or Mr Baldacci lacked interest and motivation. Even he doesn't seem convinced. What a shame.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 May 2016
Hell's Corner is the first book by David Baldacci where I had to skim the ending because I simply wasn't enjoying it. After finishing this book I can see why there haven't been any other Camel Club stories since, save for a shared short story with Will Robie.

To start with, this book did not feel like a Camel Club story. It was almost entirely an Oliver Stone story with only cameo appearances from his friends. The trouble is that there was no reason for this. When Oliver is drawn in on the mission he goes on, it is for such a flimsy reason that it would have been better for the author to have stuck to form and had him and the Camel Club investigate these events on their own and outside the system. It was a shame that this was how this series closes out.

The other reason I didn't like this book was because of how convoluted it was. There are so many twists that weren't foreshadowed, people who had dual or even triple loyalties, and a constant stream of 180 degree turns that it was just impossible to follow. Every decision they made was always the wrong one which they had apparently been led to by the enemy, even decisions where they were acting almost at random. The novel just really didn't work for me and the ending was not very satisfying.

Finally, there is the character of Stone. He started this series as a near crazy, paranoid person about the age of sixty. We know he had a past, but he was 30 years removed from it and it was made clear that he was not the man he used to be. Throughout this series, he has been forced to use those skills again, but always he has been more the paranoid conspiracy theorist who started the camel club than the person he used to be. In this novel, he didn't feel like Stone anymore. In his place was some retired agent who was far too kickass and energetic for his age, kind of arrogant and a man who forgets far too easily about his friends. Such a shame.

Overall, it is sad to see this book finish the Camel Club series with a whimper rather than a bang. I am yet to read Bullseye, but I hope that it rectifies this a bit. If it doesn't then in the future I will always recommend that people finish this series with Divine Justice.
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on 28 May 2012
A Review of Hell's Corner by David Baldacci
Review by: John H Glen
Date; 28 May 2012
Format: Paperback
ASIN: 0230706169
Publisher: Macmillan
My rating: 4 stars

Authors/Publishers Book Description/Synopsis
On the night of the State Dinner honouring the British Prime Minister, Oliver Stone witnesses an explosion as the motorcade leaves the White House. A bomb has been detonated in what looks like a terrorist plot directed at the President and the Prime Minister. In the aftermath, British MI5 agent Mary Chapman, an experienced, lethal operative with an agenda of her own, is sent to assist and coordinate the investigation alongside American authorities. Stone, together with Harry Finn, Alex Ford and the rest of the Camel Club, is drawn into the inquiry. But everything is not what it seems, and what happened in the park may not have been the actual plan. It seems the mysterious attackers had another target in their sights, and it's up to the Camel Club to stop them, or face the catastrophic results.

What Do I Think?

I like the books of David Baldacci he is a superb story-weaver and one of the most naturally gifted writers in the action thriller, crime genres.

I initially read one of his books when in hospital in 1996 it also just happened to be his first one "Absolute Power" and I thought it was outstanding and I wasn't the only one because the following year it was, Absolute Power (1997), starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman, since then I have endeavoured to read everything he has and will write, although it appears that I might have missed some.

Of all of David Baldacci's series, the Camel Club stories are my favourites, this rag-tag gang of amateur detectives and conspiracy theory nuts have developed over the course of a series of five novels into quite the distinct and gifted crew of crime-busters.
With their so called unfeeling and righteous ex-government assassin Oliver Stone as their leader they don't half get themselves into some tight spots.
With "Hell's Corner", David Baldacci has woven another pleasing thriller, fast, action packed and exciting.
The characters are all fully developed, and the squabbling, the fidelity, and friendly joking is perfect for a well grounded team.

As predictable for the Camel Club series, constancy and camaraderie are a large part of the story as they unite to help each other and get to the bottom of the crime / mystery under discussion.
Baldacci's gift for fast paced stories remains utterly integral to my enjoyment and each time I start a book I say to myself just 3 chapters and then its bedtime and wouldn't you know it I end almost finishing the book.

This master weaver of good fast paced action thrillers always puts in a few interesting twists and lovely reveals that can keep you guessing for a very, very long time about what is truly happening.

To conclude, I can truly say that I enjoyed reading "Hell's Corner" it has all the hallmarks of a great story woven by a great story weaver, you just can't go wrong with an outing with David Baldacci.
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