In Divine Justice, Baldacci follows the trail of the Camel Club, a group of comrades who share a unique bond: friendship with fictional Oliver Stone (aka John Carr), a former Vietnam vet who joined the super-secret Triple Sixes after his tour was up, executing clandestine operations on behalf of the U.S. government.
Unfortunately, when Stone wanted to quit the unit, the government wasn’t amenable, so he has spent the last thirty years under the radar. But Stone has been sorely wronged by those in the top Washington positions, especially Macklin Hayes, a general who straddles the military and civilian intelligence departments. Only Stone’s friends in the Camel Club know his real identity and his heroic past deeds.
Recently Stone has wreaked a long-awaited revenge on those who grievously harmed him years before, taking out two high-level men in the spy network, a senator and the head of intelligence. Now that the deed is done, another chapter of his life closed, Stone is on the run, the CIA not far behind: “He’d become the most wanted man in America.” With a few words to his concerned associates, Oliver heads for cover, aware that the CIA has been alerted. But one man, Macklin Hayes, is determined to finally finish Stone and their secret history. To that end, Hayes calls on special operative Joe Knox.
The novel runs on two parallel tracks - Knox’s pursuit of his quarry, and Oliver’s bizarre journey to a safe haven as elusive as its name, Divine, Virginia. A coal-mining town, Divine is rife with secrets, drug-addicted coal miners whose bodies are sorely damaged by their work, a string of mysterious deaths, and the looming presence of a high-security prison built on the remains of a tragic mining accident.
Befriending a young man from Divine on an abruptly aborted train ride to New Orleans, Stone seeks shelter only to be drawn into the town’s drama on his first day there. His instinct is to leave, but Stone’s better nature takes over, helping his new young friend and the boy’s mother while Knox slowly closes in on his prey. In an unexpected confluence of violent events, Knox and Stone come face to face, suddenly partners in survival as they are swept up in a criminal operation that doesn’t bode well for strangers.
Baldacci writes with his usual brisk pace, Stone and his pals in more trouble than they can handle but ever innovative and equal to the task. From the quietest corridors of Washington spy agencies to the dark-hearted coal mining town, the author propels his characters from one outrageous situation to another.
If one can suspend belief, this is an entertaining ride, although much of the action is over the top: a sadistic warden, a snake-infested mine shaft, thugs wielding baseball bats, and the ultimate villain, Macklin Hayes. It’s hard to imagine that this wild bunch, Oliver Stone included, could survive many more of these action-packed adventures of good versus evil, but Baldacci probably has a few more up his sleeve before he puts the Camel Club and its mentor out to pasture.