Daylight (John Puller #5, Atlee Pine #3), by David Baldacci

Eight stars

Never one to shy away from a great thriller, I turned to the latest in the Atlee Pine series, Daylight, by esteemed author David Baldacci. The story offers some great action and development in the Mercy Pine saga, though is overshadowed by a case headed by another Baldacci protagonist. Thankfully Atlee has no trouble sharing the ‘daylight’, though it does cast her in the shadows at times. A great book for Baldacci fans, even if patience and a John Puller storyline hijacking are two aspects for which the title does not prepare the reader.

Atlee Pine is a stellar agent with the FBI and knows how to track down a criminal with one hand tied behind her back. This might have something to do with the great support she’s offered by her administrative assistant, Carol Blum, but Pine is no slouch. When they take a leave from the Bureau to track done a lead in the Mercy Pine disappearance, both Atlee and Carol end up in New Jersey, hoping to put all the pieces together.

Arriving to speak with one Ito Vincenzo, brother to a high-ranking Mafia boss, Pine wonders if her sister’s kidnapping might have something to do with an act of revenge. Atlee’s mother apparently created quite the stir testifying and Ito may have wanted to take matters into his own hands.

Just as Pine arrives to extract some information, she stumbles into the middle of something and foils an ongoing investigation by Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID). The lead investigator, John Puller, is a little less than happy, but once he sees that it’s Atlee Pine, he softens a little. Pine and Puller have worked together before and, while another of the Vincenzo family has slipped away, the fact that it was in the hopes of finding Mercy Pine lessens the impact.

It would seem that Tony Vincenzo has been using his muscle to bring pills into Fort Dix, which is how Puller finds himself involved. With leads as hot as they come, Puller has little time to rest on his laurels, but does suppose that he and Pine might be able to work together, killing two birds with a single stone. They work their respective cases in tandem, trying to uncover leads and make progress however they can.

While Atlee learns little about her sister, she does discover that Tony Vincenzo’s narcotics reach may be only the tip of the iceberg, as there are people of some prominence caught in a larger web, reaching into the halls of Congress. However, without the big fish, it’s all a house of cards and will lead Puller nowhere. It would seem the sleuthing both Pine and Puller are doing has caused someone to feel the heat, as they are both targeted and almost killed.

Working the Vincenzo angle, much is discovered and Atlee inadvertently makes a discovery about where Mercy may have gone the night she was kidnapped. It’s not yet confirmed, but if it can be substantiated, things may finally be falling into place. With the truth out there, both Puller and Pine will have to watch themselves and step carefully, or fear never seeing daylight again.

I always enjoy what David Baldacci brings to the table and marvel at how he can keep multiple series on the go by himself. He has a way with words and keeps his readers enthralled. However, I think his interest in crossovers (this is the second in as many novels that has two protagonists working together) may have cost Atlee Pine the stardom that the book’s series tag suggests.

Atlee Pine is a gritty woman and strong beyond belief. Her background in MMA fighting and push to reveal the truth about her sister’s disappearance prove to be a key aspect to the protagonist’s overall development throughout this piece. While the Mercy Pine mystery proves a thread throughout this piece, Pine seems to take second chair to John Puller and his needs, thereby relegating her to losing true character development in this novel, which is unfortunate.

Baldacci’s use of strong supporting characters is on display here again. While I won’t call him supporting, John Puller’s presence is refreshing in this piece. He has a lot worth discussing throughout the piece and his appearance does complement Pine well, though, as I have said multiple times, he steals the show. Others help to shape the plot and keep the story moving forward, with banter and plot twists that are sure to keep the reader intrigued.

Baldacci’s writing is strong and proves to fit his usual outline of two strong, central characters, one male and one female. I have long used audio to read Baldacci, so I am used to the intertwined voices and characters that appear throughout. A mix of chapter lengths help provide the reader with the momentum needed to devour thgis book in short order, even if Baldacci’s plots alone serve this purpose. I remained curious throughout and the Mercy Pine revelations left me wanting more, hoping that Atlee will keep up her search for the truth about the sister she lost three decades ago. The final half dozen chapters prove essential to understanding advances in the Mercy Pine saga.

If I had to offer a critique, it would be the Puller hijacking of the book. While I am no author, I think Pine deserved her limelight and that John Puller could have been introduced later in the piece, thereby providing him a cameo/crossover spot and not taking things over. Might Pine have been chasing down the Vincenzo lead and stumbled upon something inside Fort Dix, the story could have blossomed from there. Pine could alert the authorities, subsequently dispatching Army CID and Puller to the scene, it may have allowed her to wrest control of the plot and not make her storyline seem secondary. Still, the book was exciting and Mercy Pine’s mystery does advance. Then again, I am but a single reader/reviewer and I have not seen others comment on this in their own summaries of the book.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for another winner. While I have been somewhat critical, it is from my reviewing ivory tower. I love the writing and was thoroughly entertained.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A Minute to Midnight (Atlee Pine #2), by David Baldacci

Nine stars

Continuing some of his masterful writing, David Baldacci returns with a second novel in his Atlee Pine series, which delves even deeper into a mystery three decades in the making. After a dust-up while on duty in Arizona, FBI Agent Atlee Pine agrees to take a vacation of sorts. As she is still trying to piece together clues about her twin sister’s disappearance thirty years before, Atlee heads to rural Georgia with her Bureau assistant. When they arrive in Andersonville, Atlee sees that things are mostly as she remembers them, though her presence has brought people out of the woodwork. Filling in some gaps in a narrative that Atlee had created, the disappearance of Mercy Pine remains a massive mystery. Remembering that she and Mercy were excitable six year-olds at the time, Atlee wonders if her mind was slightly foggy about how the mystery man got into their room. Discussing the matter with some who knew her parents at the time, Atlee begins to see that much of the story she knew hinges on misconceptions, though she is not yet ready to give up. While there, the body of a woman turns up, someone that none of the locals can identify. Could this be a coincidence, or is someone trying to send a message? Atlee begins working the case, though must follow the lead of an investigator with whom she has a poor history, as she is visiting in an unofficial capacity. When more bodies turn up, Atlee must wonder if there is some symbolism to the entire experience and whether someone in Andersonville might have played a part in Mercy’s disappearance while her parents were clueless and incapacitated. Atlee has no intention of leaving the Deep South without answers, but the one who is most forthcoming might be locked away on the other side of the country. A strong story that keeps the reader engaged until the final reveal, with a wonderful cliffhanger, Baldacci has found new and exiting ways to mix story and character development in this piece. Recommended to those who love a good police procedural with a great deal of investigating, as well as the reader who has long been a Baldacci fan.

I have long been a fan of David Baldacci’s work and enjoy his constant new ideas for series that seem to come out of his publications as fast as I can read them. I remember enjoying the debut novel in the Atlee Pine series and found this one to be just as enjoyable, as the tensions mount surrounding Mercy Pine’s disappearance in 1989. The story uses Atlee’s ongoing curiosity about her sister’s disappearance to permit the reader to see some of the backstory that she brings to the novel. What Baldacci has done by sending Atlee to Georgia is offer up more backstory and fill in gaps to create a fuller and more complex Atlee Pine for the reader to enjoy. There are numerous moments of revelation that even Atlee could not have predicted, which thickens the plot. Her development in the present is tested as well, as she tries to define herself as an FBI agent while seeking answers for a past that remains so shrouded. Others who make appearances in the novel prove to be just as exciting and allow the reader to better understand the larger picture. Be they friends of the parental Pines or those who have crossed paths with Atlee in her adult life, Baldacci leaves no path untraveled and this enriched the story for me. I loved the concept of the return to Georgia. While a friend of mine on Goodreads ‘pined’ (pardon the pun) for a full-on investigation into the Mercy disappearance, the fact that another case takes centre stage pleased me. While I want to know everything about Mercy Pine and her kidnapping, I think it is too soon in the series to solve this electrifying mystery. Readers need more Atlee Pine chipping away, as she is greatly defined in the novel as “the sister who was not taken”. I feel Baldacci is doing well by stringing the reader along for a while longer. The dialogue and characters are both believable and worth investing the reading time to discover, as Baldacci never lets things go flat. The dedicated reader will likely come out of this reading experience happy they took the time to read this book, if only to learn more about Atlee Pine and the struggles with which she wrestles daily.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for another winner. I could not read this one fast enough and am eager to see what’s coming next.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons