“The Innocent,” by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing, April 2012), is a fast-paced, if not terribly exciting, action thriller about an assassin (Will Robie) who is regularly contracted by the U.S. Government to perform hits on people whose existences are politically inconvenient for one reason or another. He’s a calculating, cold, and ruthless mercenary until he’s given an assignment to kill a woman and her child but ends up refusing to do so. This refusal angers the powers that hired him, so he becomes a target, himself. But just who wants him dead is anyone’s guess after the most likely suspects all end up dead, themselves. If you’re wondering why I don’t mention the fourteen-year-old girl who’s featured on the cover with Robie, it’s because she seems to have no real reason for being in the book in the first place. Her name is Julie, and she and Robie run into each other as they are both trying to escape their would-be killers. Robie decides it’s his job to protect her from the men who took out her parents and are now trying to assassinate her. And, yes, ultimately there's a connection between her parents death and the reason Robie is being hunted, but that whole part comes across as contrived and needless to the plot. You could remove Julie’s character and the death of her parents, and the entire story would remain exactly the same. In fact, many of the events that take place in the story seem random and needless to the plot. It’s as if the book were written by a software program where general parameters like, male main character, taboo relationship, action, homicide, reading grade level 6, , etc., were plugged in and then processed. Of course, without Julie’s character you’d lose the prurient suspense of finding out whether or not Robie is going to molest her. After all, she does sleep in his apartment and the two have a great deal in common. In the end, what this conscienceless killer is going to do with her soon becomes the only reason for continuing to read this otherwise boring action thriller. In my opinion, the story should have centered more on a woman Robie meets, named Annie Lambert and the relationship that ensues forthwith, but her part becomes almost a side note. I won’t go into more detail about it, because she ultimately plays a critical role in the story. Nevertheless, Annie is underplayed, and the adolescent Julie is overplayed. The writing is competent, I suppose, but it’s low-level stuff obviously written for those who make movies out of low-level stuff. If it’s made into a movie, you can expect one of those forgettable CG action flicks intended to keep big name stars employed long beyond their usefulness. “The Innocent” is not a strong story, and it can get a little confusing with all the different directions it takes, directions that ultimately don’t add up to much. But if you do get confused, don’t worry; the final chapters, themselves, turn into a highly improbable short story that wraps up all the details far too neatly. Would I recommend this book? No. Baldacci is famous, and this being his latest effort at typing practice you may want to read it to stay on top of what’s new, but it certainly didn’t move me.