No Man’s Land (John Puller #4), by David Baldacci

Eight stars

Baldacci proves why he is the master of his genre with another exciting novel in his John Puller series. After returning from his latest military assignment, John Puller is visited by two military officials with potential news of a cold case from thirty years before. Jacqueline “Jackie” Puller left the family home one evening after supper, leaving her sons, John Jr. and Robert, with a babysitter. When she did not return, her disappearance was investigated, but no changes were ever laid. Accompanying these two men is a letter penned by a woman who lived at Fort Monroe with the Pullers at the time Jackie disappeared. The contents of the letter clearly express that the elder John Puller, an accomplished military man at the time, was responsible for the disappearance of his wife and goes on to lay out claims that Puller murdered her, having lied to investigators three decades before. While the woman is terminally ill, Puller, Jr. and Robert cannot believe the allegations, but are not prepared to dismiss them as completely offhand. While Puller, Sr. remains in a state of mental fog, Puller, Jr. begins his own investigation into events. Meanwhile, in a parallel narrative, Paul Rogers is released from prison and is seeking to acclimate himself back into society, though has no desire to make any blip on the radar. His unusual strength and massive size leaves him hard to hide, though he will do all he can to hide himself and the scars that cover his body. Rogers settles in as a bouncer at a local bar, though even there he cannot hide from everyone. As Puller pushes deeper into the investigation, he find himself hitting a wall with no help from the US Army. They go so far as to close u any investigation and reassign those who were turning over stones, which is a significant red flag for Puller. Someone is trying to cover something up and he is left to wonder what happened to his mother. After Puller comes upon news that there were other women who disappeared and turned up murdered around the Base, he is sure that a serial killer may have been lurking in the shadows and Jackie was one of the victims. Puller is visited by his old friend and sometimes flame, Veronica Knox, who agrees to help uncover many of the areas that seem to be causing Puller the most grief, though she must do so off the radar as well, so as not to alert the military or US Government. It is only when they learn of a covert program within the military that sought to create indestructible soldiers that Puller wonders if his mother knew something she should not. When Puller and Knox come across Paul Rogers, they are amazed at his abilities and wonder if he might be responsible for the killings and could have disposed of Jackie Puller, either following orders or as a rogue agent. There are those high in their ivory towers that have been able to distance themselves for years, but have blood on their hands and consciences, and Rogers has not forgotten those who used him as a guinea pig for their own advancement. Rogers confesses some telling information to Puller and Knox after saving their lives; things that might help clear things up on that night thirty years in the past. Could John Puller, Sr. have played a role in his wife’s death, taking orders from the military hierarchy? Will Knox and Puller, Jr. piece it all together before it is too late? Is Paul Rogers the epitome of the military’s soldier of the future? Baldacci spins a story that will keep readers guessing and wondering until the final chapter, and beyond.

Fans of David Baldacci have seen him develop many series, all of which are highly entertaining and poignant in their plots. While his writing has become even better over time, he is also able to tap into some of the long-standing style that has made him the bestselling author whose creations include the King and Maxwell, Camel Club, Amos Decker, and John Puller series. In this novel, Baldacci uses a core of highly-developed characters to keep the story moving forward while a secondary collection who complement and support the narrative as it weaves in many directions. Plots are ever-evolving and dialogue remains crisp, which keeps the reader guessing and pushing even further, in hopes of learning more in short order. Series fans will revel in this great novel that looks into military technology and offers up a brief soapbox speech about the perils of such development. Filled with humour, action, emotion, and drama, Baldacci has another bestseller on his hands and is sure to find more fans to flock to his ever-growing publications. 

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci for delivering yet again. I can count on you and your abilities with every new book.