The Mighty Johns: A Novella, by David Baldacci

Eight stars

Fans of David Baldacci know that he possesses a great versatility when it comes to writing. I have experienced a variety of his work and enjoyed most of it. This is a unique novella, a mystery four decades in the making, with college football as an underlying theme. Baldacci keeps things sharp for the reader who has only a short time to invest, or those seeking a ‘bridge piece’ between two longer reading commitments.

Draven Univerisy prides itself on its football team, the Mighty Johns. Their most prominent player, Herschel Ruggles, is still spoken in the halls and many who are old enough remember where they were during one of his award-winning catches. Four decades ago, Ruggles made an astounding touchdown catch and then simply disappeared into the bowels of the stadium, never to be seen again. No one was able to make heads or tails of it, adding to the lore.

The disappearance is still mentioned and it is only when a new player— Merl North—begin shattering the Ruggles records, that the mystery resurfaces. North has a penchant for science and must have answers, beginning his own investigation into the disappearance. What North finds only adds to the mystery, though this is one problem that demands a solution, even if it costs North all he has. It’s an eerie intervention that may point in the direct of truth once and for all.

While I am used to gritty mysteries that include the US Government, Baldacci is able to move outside of his apparent comfort zone and dazzle the reader with ease. There’s something about the writing style and narrative flow that keeps me interested, as I flip pages with ease to get a little deeper into the story. Originally penned as part of a collection of shorter writings, Baldacci’s piece works well as a standalone publication.

With little time to waste, Baldacci develops his characters from the opening pages and keeps adding to their backstory as the mystery builds. This is not uncommon and the reader is forced to keep pace or risk being left behind. Many of the faces that appear in this piece could just as easily be used as secondary characters in any of Baldacci’s prominent series.

While the book opened with a strong scientific analysis of football, things soon fell into place and I was able to enjoy the narrative without investing too much devoted concentration. The plot emerged and the mystery gained the needed momentum to create something the reader could latch onto quickly. With a little flashback here and there, things definitely caught my attention and held it until the final reveal. While I do enjoy some of the more intense Baldacci thrillers, this was a great treat that filled a short gap in my reading list.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for tossing a Hail Mary that worked well!

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

A Gambling Man (Aloysius Archer #2), by David Baldacci

Eight stars

There’s something about David Baldacci and his writing that has me intrigued whenever I grab for one of his books. Always keen to depict a wonderful piece of sleuthing, Baldacci has a knack for bringing a story to life. In this series, he’s added a throwback angle, setting things in the early 1950s, which gives the reader another aspect to enjoy a great deal. Aloysius Archer has seen a great deal, having served in the war and spent a little time behind bars. Now he’s headed west, where he may have a job, working as a private detective, waiting for him in California. After a stop in Reno, where trouble and a few interesting characters find him, Archer’s ready to head towards the bright lights. There, he’s pulled into a case of blackmail and murder, which is just how someone wants to cut their teeth in the sleuthing business. A great story that shows just how versatile Baldacci can be.

It has always been Aloysius Archer’s dream to solve cases, even if he has no notable experience. He’s made it through the war and tried to come out of it a changed man. A few dust-ups left him to serve time for a crime he did not commit, but that is behind him. Now, it’s California that’s calling and a potential job working as a private detective under a man who has quite the reputation. All Archer need do is make it there and prove his worth.

Along the way, Reno, Nevada calls. Archer is no gambling man, but he agrees to take in the sights, if only briefly. After learning the art of gambling and risk taking, Archer and a new companion prepare for a venture west, but are hampered when a local man meets up with some trouble of the gambling debt variety. Archer’s big heart and wily ways help rectify the situation.

With the bright lights of California on the horizon, Archer proceeds to a small town to present himself, in hopes of solid work and something to show for himself. He’s pulled in for a quasi-interview, which turns into being tossed in the middle of a case. There’s an election for mayor and one of the candidates is being blackmailed. Archer will have to prove that it’s all nonsense and that the philandering is a smear campaign. Asking some poignant questions, Archer begins to see how the town runs and who is pulling the strings.

However, when a woman turns up murdered, Archer cannot help but take notice and suspects it is to silence her. Politics has always been a dirty business and Archer’s come to see that this is no exception. Delving into the darkest of corners, Archer must not only find out who has been blackmailing the mayoral candidate, but also why murder seems the only way to keep players in the scheme from talking. When a few others turn up dead, Archer realises that this is a case that will require much of his time and intuitiveness,.. What a way to begin life in the gumshoe business!

Versatility is key for any author who wants to stay at the forefront of writing. Readers can be fickle, or at least demand some new angle to keep them coming back. David Baldacci has done just that and it seems to work. Setting the story back in the early 1950s and working some more primitive angles (no smartphones here, gasp!), the reader can see how things were done when sweat and intuition served to grease the wheels of detective work. It all comes together nicely and I cannot say it was anything but a success.

Aloysius Archer has a laidback approach to life that makes him the perfect protagonist for this piece. Wanting nothing more than to live and let live—so long as it does not impede his ability to enjoy things—Archer does what he can on a daily basis. He comes off as gritty, yet not overly temperamental, seeking truth over trying to make trouble for others. Should the series continue, I can see myself wanting to know a great deal more about the man and perhaps more of his past, as well as what the future has in store. It’s sure to be an interesting experience for any reader.

Baldacci presents a handful of interesting supporting characters, all of whom set the scene well and offer a flavour to the story that helps substantiate its 50s throwback. There is a lot of work that went into this piece, the characters doing their part to help the reader feel fully involved. While some folks do come off as somewhat stereotypical, the story needed them to offset some of the bold and brazenness that emerges throughout the narrative.

While I have never been one to flock towards dime store novels that depict detectives and women who beg to be protected, this piece worked well for me. Baldacci paints a wonderful picture of life in 1950s America and things come together with ease. A strong narrative keeps the reader wanting to know more, while the characters add a certain depth to things that made me feel as though I were part of the action. The dialogue and vernacular certainly took me back, where I expected everyone to be smoking and the men donning fedoras. It worked and shows the versatile nature of David Baldacci’s writing. It’s certainly worth the gamble of any reader wanting something a little different.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for another winner. You have me intrigued with Aloysius Archer and I hope to see him again soon!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Christmas Train, by David Baldacci (a re-read)

Eight stars

I love this holiday classic, even if it is totally cheesy. It is one of my annual reads at this time of year and I hope it can be added to a holiday TBR list for others as well.

Baldacci brings his readers a holiday classic sure to stoke the fires of the heart and keep the holiday season on track. Tom Langdon is on a mission, to get from New York to LA in time for Christmas. After a slightly intrusive and highly problematic search by airport security, Langdon finds himself on a red-flag list, still needing to get to the City of Angels. As a seasoned journalist, he tries to make the most of his issue and decides to take to the rails aboard Amtrak’s best and brightest, writing all about his adventures. His multi-day journey puts many interesting and unique characters in his path, as well as some highly humourous adventures and even a mystery or two. As the miles fly by, Langdon discovers that there is more to the train than a slower means of getting from A to B. When someone from his past appears on the journey alongside him, Langdon discovers true meaning of the holidays and how the heart is the best guide on any of life’s trips. A nice break for Baldacci thriller readers, the book is a wonderful addition to the annual holiday traditions.

I would be remiss if I did not agree with many that this book is not cut from the usual cloth Baldacci presents. That said, its hokey nature is offset by the wonderful story Baldacci tells and the humour he is able to weave into the larger narrative. I have read this book many time before and love it each time, finding some new aspect to cherish. Baldacci is a master at storytelling and this book is proof positive that his flexible ideas can stand the test of time and genre diversification.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for this holiday treat that ranks right up there with shortbread and eggnog.

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

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

Walk the Wire (Amos Decker #6), by David Baldacci

Eight stars

David Baldacci is back with another of his powerhouse Amos Decker novels, which never ceases to impress. Decker and his team are sent to the small community of London, North Dakota to investigate the murder of a woman. Her skull has been hacked open and her brain removed, as well as the evisceration of her stomach. Decker cannot make much sense of it, but soon learns that the victim was the teacher on a religious colony just outside of town. When not teaching the minds of tomorrow, she was entertaining the men of the community with her sexual prowess, which is another angle that Decker feels might play a part in her death. London is not the bucolic town it might seem, as a military installation appears to be quite busy on the outskirts, something that Decker learns is related to satellite monitoring. However, something seems off and so the investigation turns in that direction, as odd vehicles appear and planes are in the vicinity at odd hours. While Decker pushes forward, there are some who seem to take offence to this and he lands in a spot of trouble. Just when things get at their most tense, a mysterious figure shows up to cast some light on the situation and save Decker’s hide. More bodies turn up, some mysterious suicides and others outright murders. It would seem there is more to this small town than meets the eye, something some within the US Army want to keep secret. While Decker wants to find the killer, there are bigger fish to fry. Why, then, would someone like Will Robie be here and how will that impact the case? A great piece with some strong cross-over elements to one of Baldacci’s other series. Recommended to fans of his work, as well as the reader who needs a little thrill put back into their day!

I love a story that pulls me in from the opening pages and does not let up. Baldacci does that here from the outset, with his strong mix of characters. That the story was set in North Dakota only added to things for me, as I grew up a few hours away, over the Canadian border. As always, Amos Decker is a wonderful protagonist and his way of thinking keeps me on my toes throughout. His thought process and somewhat rational way of coming to some conclusions makes the story all the better, keeping the reader wanting more. There was definitely a softer side that emerged in this piece, as Decker connects with siblings from his past. Might there be a turn towards the more amenable side of this rock-hard man? The others who emerge in this piece help to complement Decker’s work, as well as keep the action moving. Will Robie’s cross-over appearance here left me wondering if Baldacci wanted to bring one of his past protagonists back, seeing as there have been some new projects taking precedence. Decker and Robie work well together and the race to the answer is found with their teaming up. The story was strong, as usual, and the plot kept evolving throughout, with twists that Baldacci explains to those who pay attention. I am happy to see some cross-over work and would be keen to see if Baldacci tries it again, as it seemed seamless to me. Now to wait for the next book, which is always the hardest part.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for another great Amos Decker instalment. I love how creative you can be, given the opportunity.

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

One Good Deed, by David Baldacci

Eight stars

In his latest standalone thriller, David Baldacci captivates readers while taking them on a voyage back in time. It’s 1949 and the War is over, as is the short time Aloysius Archer has spent in prison. Heading west, Archer settles in Poca City to serve out his parole. Seeking employment, Archer is approached by Hank Pittleman to help him retrieve a debt. Archer seems happy to help, as long as his parole officer considers this above board. However, as Archer soon discovers, the debtor is anything but happy to repay what is owed and spins a tale of a lost daughter he wishes to protect. Working his verbal magic, Archer feels he might be making headway, until a murder shakes him to his core. The authorities are happy to look at the ex-con for the crime and the evidence points in Archer’s direction. Trying to clear his name and work with the locals to solve the case, Archer uncovers some interesting secrets that sees the investigation widen. Armed with this news and trying to stay one step ahead of the noose, Archer will do whatever it takes, using the sleuthing he heard in his favourite mystery novels while incarcerated. A wonderful novel that has the potential to begin a new series. Baldacci has done it again and I can recommend this to those who love his work, as well as the reader who finds joy in crime thrillers.

I always enjoy new ventures by established authors, as it pushes them out of their comfort zone while allowing readers to see just how vast their abilities tend to be. David Baldacci has done this many times over the years, taking a standalone and, upon rave reviews, builds it into a new series, letting some of his past collections fade into the background. This novel surely has the potential for that, as it is not only well founded, but its characters are interesting and the narrative flows with ease. Aloysius Archer proves to be a wonderful protagonist, seeking to reinvent himself after fighting in Europe and doing a stint in jail. This backstory alone draws the reader to him, but there is more. As he arrives in town—almost Reacher-esque—knowing no one in particular, Archer soon connects with some of the locals and finds himself in the middle of a feud. His skills as an investigator are second to none and this is utilised effectively throughout, allowing Archer to grow and become even better liked by the reader. Supported by a handful of other strong characters, Archer finds himself trying to stay one step ahead of the law without disappearing entirely. The secondary characters are strong and serve to keep the story moving, though their interactions with Archer cannot be dismissed. There is some strong potential, should Baldacci continue the series, though it is apparent that certain storylines will dominate any future plots. Well written with a perfect mix to keep the reader engaged, Baldacci may have a major success on his hands, should he move in that direction.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for another great novel. I cannot wait to see what you have in store for readers down the road.

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

Redemption (Amos Decker #5), by David Baldacci

Eight stars

In another thrilling novel, David Baldacci places Amos Decker in the middle of a case that will require all his attention. While visiting his daughter’s grave, Amos Decker is approached by a man he put away for murder over a decade ago. Released for compassionate reasons, the man professes that his conviction was wrong and that Decker needs to reevaluate the work he did when serving with the local police department. Now, armed with a task and reunited with his former partner, Decker is trying to piece together the narrative from the murder. When the original accused is murdered himself, Decker can only surmise that someone is trying to silence an attempt to find justice. The further he digs, the more Decker uncovers, though some of it is surely as painful for him as it is for the families of the victims and the accused. When others die, Decker refuses to let that deter him and forges ahead at full speed. The town of Burlington, Ohio may have changed after all these years, but there are still secrets that linger, including one that could destroy its bucolic nature. Can Decker save all that he holds dear without allowing his past to fade into oblivion? Another wonderful novel by Baldacci, who has been keeping the Decker series fresh and insightful for fans. Recommended for those who love a good mystery and have followed the series from its inception.

I have long been a fan of David Baldacci and his work, having seen him through many series over a number of years. I became curious about Amos Decker from the start, as the premise caught my attention from the outset. With a well-established backstory, Amos Decker would appear to have little to offer the reader, though his past is always coming back to work its magic and old cases receive new life. As the story begins with Decker returning to Burlington, the reader is taken back and discovers some of the pain the series protagonist has been holding onto over the past number of years. Others add depth and intrigue to the story and propel Decker forward to make key choices that not only move the mystery in a key direction, but also help to give the characters entertaining. Moving into the fifth novel in this series, there is little lag as Baldacci continues to offer fresh and interesting directions for his protagonist. With a mix of short chapters and those with more depth to build suspense, Baldacci pulls the reader in from the outset and shows why he is at the top of his game. I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for his fans and what sort of directions things will go in the foreseeable future.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for never letting up and keeping this series full of twists for those who like to be surprised.

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

The Christmas Train, by David Baldacci

Eight stars

I love this holiday classic, even if it is totally cheesy. It is one of my annual reads at this time of year and I hope it can be added to a holiday TBR list for others as well.

Baldacci brings his readers a holiday classic sure to stoke the fires of the heart and keep the holiday season on track. Tom Langdon is on a mission, to get from New York to LA in time for Christmas. After a slightly intrusive and highly problematic search by airport security, Langdon finds himself on a red-flag list, still needing to get to the City of Angels. As a seasoned journalist, he tries to make the most of his issue and decides to take to the rails aboard Amtrak’s best and brightest, writing all about his adventures. His multi-day journey puts many interesting and unique characters in his path, as well as some highly humourous adventures and even a mystery or two. As the miles fly by, Langdon discovers that there is more to the train than a slower means of getting from A to B. When someone from his past appears on the journey alongside him, Langdon discovers true meaning of the holidays and how the heart is the best guide on any of life’s trips. A nice break for Baldacci thriller readers, the book is a wonderful addition to the annual holiday traditions.

I would be remiss if I did not agree with many that this book is not cut from the usual cloth Baldacci presents. That said, its hokey nature is offset by the wonderful story Baldacci tells and the humour he is able to weave into the larger narrative. I have read this book many time before and love it each time, finding some new aspect to cherish. Baldacci is a master at storytelling and this book is proof positive that his flexible ideas can stand the test of time and genre diversification.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for this holiday treat that ranks right up there with shortbread and eggnog.

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

Long Road to Mercy (Atlee Pine #1), by David Baldacci

Eight stars

There is something to be said for an author who can juggle writing multiple book series at the same time, and even more for those who are able to see these collections continually hit the top of the charts. David Baldacci has been able to do this—without collaborators, I might add—and keeps the stories crisp, while never losing his reading base. I approached Baldacci’s latest work with some trepidation, as I am comfortable with the two strong series he actively writes and worry about diluting the quality of his published works. Atlee Pine is an agent with the FBI, but her unique backstory and location add new depth to her character. Pine grew up in Georgia, but moved out West to enjoy the open spaces, as well as some distance from others. When she is called to the Grand Canyon to help with an investigation, she jumps at the opportunity, though is highly confused when she arrives. Ben Priest was part of a group travelling through the Canyon by mule, but he has gone missing. The mule’s been found, gutted and with an odd message carved into its flank. As Pine begins investigating, she contacts Priest’s brother, who has much too say about Ben. Just as Pine locates the missing Priest, she is assaulted and both Priest brothers are abducted by someone on a military chopper. Now, the mystery thickens and Pine is called off the case by those back at FBI HQ. Refusing to stand down, Pine enlists the help of her assistant, Carol Blum, and they begin their own investigation into events, which takes them across the country. Dodging FBI officials and some of the scummier folks seeking to stop their progress, Pine and Blum uncover that there may be a plot that puts America in great danger. Neutered by orders from on high, there is no one to whom Pine and Blum can turn, until they get solid evidence. Time is running short and international entities appear to be gathering momentum, forcing Pine to make a sacrifice for her country. Baldacci has crafted a winner here, in a series that begs to continue in some way. Fans of Baldacci’s work will likely enjoy the piece and it comes highly recommended to those who are drawn to stories of action.

I have long been a fan of David Baldacci and his work. Be it thrillers, holiday heartwarming stories, or something with political implications, Baldacci usually knows how to convey his point through well-developed novels. This story is no exception, as it mixes the thrill of the hunt with a female protagonist ready to solve the world’s problems. Atlee Pine is not only a strong FBI agent, but also harbours a deep backstory that is sure to be handled over a few novels. Having lost her twin sister at the age of six to a kidnapper, Atlee has been trying to remember the night Mercy was abducted. This underlying thread keeps the story moving along, as Atlee seeks to avenge the powerlessness she suffered as a child by capturing the worst criminals who cross her path. She lives an isolated life and wants few to see her inner scars, though seems destined to share when the time seems right. Baldacci has scattered enough crumbs to keep the reader wondering and one can hope that the series will continue to give more depth to the character and her inner turmoil. Those around Atlee Pine help support her and strengthen the story in their own way, as the reader pushes through this series debut. Some will surely return in the novels to come, while others are vessels for this plot line. Either way, they come to life and offer the reader something entertaining. The story itself is not entirely unique, but it is the way that Baldacci tells it that keeps things fresh and energetic. Geo-politics has become the latest craze in the genre, which is on offer here, but there is an interesting way the characters work to hash out the specifics that kept me wanting to know more. Perhaps this is the way of the future, leaving traditional terrorism as a theme of the past, allowing new and exciting threads to be developed by top-rated authors, such as Baldacci. I’ll keep reading, as the stories remain of high caliber. I can only hope there are more novels in the works!

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for another thrilling ride. I look forward to what 2019 brings and how you’ll dazzle your fans next!

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