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July 13, 2020

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Book reviews: NY Times best-selling author David Baldacci doesn't disappoint

Baldacci is a grandmaster of character building, and getting to know FBI agent Pine is a delight, leaving you turning pages

The Icon introduces our newest column of book reviews. Robert McCool of Ada is our reviewer.

Reviews by Robert McCool
Who says that summer reading has to be as bubbly and frothy as the foam on top of your iced latte? 

I find it better to immerse myself in a good story, like my toes being buried in warm beach sand. But with the current covid-19 restrictions on all of us I have to depend on curbside service from my local library, and recommendations from my favorite librarians. 

Which brings me to the point of these reviews on two books that I really enjoyed.

David Baldacci has published over 38 novels, most becoming New York Times bestsellers, and doesn't disappoint with his 39th and 40th published in 2018 and 2019. These books fearlessly feature a new protagonist in Atlee Pine, FBI agent. 

Baldacci is a grandmaster of character building, and getting to know FBI agent Pine is a delight, leaving you turning pages to discover how she is built into a full-fledged character; her strengths and weaknesses, her motivations and methods.

Long Road to Mercy
Atlee's life is shaped by a childhood tragedy, when her identical twin Mercy is abducted one night from their shared bedroom, and Atlee's skull is bashed in by an unknown assailant. Hence the title of the book- “Long Road to Mercy” (Hachette Book Group, ISBN9781538761571). 

She has spent her adult life looking for the truth about who took her sister, visiting a Super-Max prison to interview the serial killer she suspects did it. But she finds no answers there.

Atlee is the lone FBI agent in Shattered Rock, Arizona, next to the Grand Canyon, and it is into the Grand Canyon the opening of the  story takes us when a mule is found butchered at the bottom of the Canyon and a tourist is missing. 

The plot develops into a conspiracy that takes her from the Canyon to  Washington, D.C., and back again, along with her unflappable secretary and assistant Carol Blum. Blum plays her Thelma to Atlee's Louise on the cross country trip in Atlee's 1967 Mustang convertible.

The story includes a Korean mercenary assassin named Sung Nam Chung who tries to stop their investigation, along with members of our own country's secret agencies. All this comes to a head when a Soviet nuclear bomb is discovered in the Grand Canyon in a secret governmental effort to start a war with North Korea. 

Atlee must discover how to find the bomb and the one man who can disarm it, and take the information to her agency's chief in an effort to right the wrongs within the American government who confronts her.

Atlee is a power iron lifter, missing the Olympics by being only a kilogram overweight, and as such can carry the action along no matter how heavy it becomes. She is as most formidable as a protagonist can be.

A Minute to Midnight
In the second Atlee Pine book, “A Minute to Midnight” (Hachette Book Group, IBSN 9781538761601), she and the capable Carol Blum vacation to Athlee's childhood home in Andersonville, Georgia, to seek answers to the questions around her sister Mercy's disappearances. While in the small town she walks into the result of a serial killer's attack on a woman laying in the street.

As Atlee asks around people who still live there and knew her parents and the circumstances surrounding Mercy's abduction, she finds her answers which lead to more questions as to who her parents really were. It becomes obvious that she's not being told the whole truth, the truth which has formed her life and who Atlee is inside her deepest soul.

While she's pursuing the whole story of her family she becomes a part of the investigation into a serial killer and why the victims are posed the way they are. The first victim is a woman who is wearing a wedding veil. The second is a man dressed as an antique  groom. The third victim is a young boy dressed and posed as a Confederate drummer boy. The question is why is somebody fulfilling a family fantasy. Who would do such a thing?

The answers lead her deeper into the people who knew her parents, and what she finds is disturbing. Her mother was a mole into the New York mob, and when she finds out who her father really is it comes a shock to both her and to the reader.

The third Atlee thriller is due out later in 2020 and I look forward to reading it and following Atlee into her next adventure.