Divine Justice is the fourth book in David Baldacci’s Camel Club series. The Camel Club is a ragtag team of eccentrics who are attuned to and intent on exposing the missteps of our government from all sides. They are led by John Carr, AKA Oliver Stone, a former government-trained assassin from a highly secret (and fictional) branch of the CIA who’s been on the fringes of society since his ouster by the corrupt leadership that had his family executed when he wanted out. When he went on the run, he took the name Oliver Stone because he saw real conspiracies everywhere. The other charter members of the club are Reuben Rhodes, Caleb Shaw, and Milton Farb.
Rhodes graduated from West Point, served in Vietnam, and then worked for the DIA until he became disillusioned and protested the endless wars waged by the U.S. Despite some passing issues with drug use, he maintains his expert marksmanship and innovative approaches to problem solving.
Caleb Shaw holds two doctorates and works in the Rare Book Wing of the Library of Congress. He’s a whiz at research, and he has some special skills completely unrelated to his academic pursuits that come to light in this fourth book.
Milton Farb was a child prodigy with savant abilities in computation and memory. While he met his demise in the third book, Stone Cold, he’s often referred to by the club as they are still grieving the loss of their friend.
Two later arrivals to the club include Alex Ford, a Secret Service agent who has helped Stone and the club over the years, and Annabelle Conroy, a con artist extraordinaire who first crossed paths with and helped the club in the previous book. Annabelle is deeply distraught over Farb’s demise, as the two of them had an especially close rapport, something that normally doesn’t happen in Annabelle’s experience.
Divine Justice opens with action immediately following the end of Stone Cold. Stone had just committed high-profile murders of two corrupt government officials and was on the run. Once his victims were discovered, he would need to hide from the authorities, and from the rest of the Camel Club because he didn’t want what he’d done to come back on them. Unfortunately, Stone had made enemies decades earlier who wouldn’t rest until he was either dead or in some kind of hell of his antagonist’s creation. He’d staged his crimes to finally kill off John Carr from all outward appearances. He carefully left evidence near enough the last crime scene that the authorities should deduce his downfall. Unfortunately, given the tenacity of his chief adversary, he still had to ensure he wasn’t seen, so he left town by train under another assumed name.
Of course wherever Stone goes, trouble tends to follow, and this train ride was no different. A young man was in trouble, and Stone stepped in to protect him against some thugs who were bigger and meaner than the kid. Stone made more enemies that day as he rescued the underdog. After the two of them were booted off the train, they made their way to the young man’s hometown – Divine, Virginia. Like many rural towns in the area, there wasn’t much there – a diner, a coal mine, a super max private prison, and a bunch of townies. The young man was named Danny Riker. His mom, Abby Riker, ran the diner, and it turned out that she also had money, lots of money, and an estate. Of course there was far more to the town than met the eye from Stone’s initial inspection.
Through the course of the story, Stone learns of the town’s secrets and also comes face to face with the man sent to bring him to his most unforgiving adversary. It seems that Macklin Hayes, Carr’s superior when he was in the service decades earlier, still had it in for him. Hayes is irrational, and he blames Carr for his own failings decades later. As a result, he wants Carr to suffer and sends an agent, Joe Knox, to find and bring him in. Knox takes the assignment at face value initially, but after doing some digging into Carr’s background, he’s not so sure that he’s on the side of right anymore. Knox finally catches up to Carr in Divine, but by that time he realizes that his hunt is backwards. Hayes is the criminal, not Carr/Stone. Unfortunately he realizes this after he and Stone find themselves unlawfully held in the super max prison. It seems that Stone had uncovered what was really going on there, and some of the townies were after him. He made some enemies in town by defending Riker and landed in the middle of a tussle between a criminal enterprise and his original adversary. He isn’t completely sure which is worse, and the two situations end up converging at the prison.
Of course, the rest of the Camel Club pursues Stone as well to help save him despite his warning them off as he attempts to keep his whereabouts hidden. Their search is a few steps behind Knox’s, and they arrive in Divine just in time to be part of the fireworks. Of course nothing is that simple, and there are some confusing relationships feeding the chaos.
Like other Baldacci thrillers, there’s plenty of gory action and misdirection along the way. There are some villains who are beyond redemption such as the warden of the super max – an evil man with sadistic tendencies – and heroes who get entangled, some tragically. Still, the resolution sets up numerous possibilities for the final Camel Club installment with some aspects of Carr/Stone’s predicament still in play. The world seems a better place with Stone in it despite his tumultuous past, and he has some friends in high places who tend to grudgingly agree with him.
The full Camel series includes:
- The Camel Club
- The Collectors
- Stone Cold
- Divine Justice
- Hell’s Corner
Divine Justice, by David Baldacci