Source: Review copy
Publication: 14 November 2019 from Pan MacMillan
‘My sister was abducted from here nearly thirty years ago. The person who took her was never found. And neither was she. Her abductor nearly killed me. So I’m back here now trying to find the truth.’
Atlee Pine has spent most of her life trying to find out what happened that fateful night in Andersonville, Georgia. Her six-year-old twin sister, Mercy, was taken and Atlee was left for dead while their parents were apparently partying downstairs. One person who continues to haunt her is notorious serial killer Daniel James Tor, locked away in a Colorado maximum security prison. Does he really know what happened to Mercy?
The family moved away. The parents divorced. And Atlee chose a career with the FBI dedicating her life to catching those who hurt others. When she oversteps the mark on the arrest of a dangerous criminal, she’s given a leave of absence offering the perfect opportunity to return to where it all began, and find some answers. But the trip to Andersonville turns into a roller-coaster ride of murder, long-buried secrets and lies.
And a revelation so personal that everything she once believed is fast turning to dust.
I am really enjoying my exploration of David Baldacci’s characters. After his brilliant One Good Deed with Aloysius Archer, I have turned to Atlee Pine and the second book in his series about this tenacious and prickly FBI agent.
Atlee Pine is a 35 year old FBI agent, stationed in Shattered Rock, Arizona, where she is the sole FBI agent patrolling the rural and remoter areas of south west America. Atlee is haunted by the abduction of her twin sister, Mercy when she was only six years old. After that, the family fell apart. Atlee’s parents divorced and her father killed himself on Atlee and Mercy’s birthday. Then Atlee’s mother left and Atlee has no idea where her mother is now.
Atlee is a tenacious agent. Physically very fit, she is an expert in MMA and kickboxing and an Olympic standard weightlifter. She is an experienced profiler, but eschewed a place in the Bureau’s Behaviour Analysis Unit because she doesn’t want to profile – she would far rather be in the field catching the monsters.
In A Minute to Midnight, Atlee is in seriously would up mode. She has been visiting notorious psychopathic serial killer Daniel Tor in prison. Tor was in the Andersonville area when Mercy was taken and Atlee was injured and left for dead. She wants to know if he was responsible, but Tor is content to simply wind her up and disclose nothing.
Then, hunting down the perpetrator in another case, Atlee takes out all her frustrations on a child abductor and beats him hard. After that incident her boss gives her a leave of absence, suggesting that she gets her head straight by investigating what happened to her in Andersonville 30 years ago so that she can finally lay her ghosts to rest.
Of course, nothing is ever quite as simple as that. Taking her assistant, the redoubtable mother of six, Ms Carol Blum with her to Georgia, Atlee quickly becomes embroiled in another murder. This time the first victim is a woman dressed in a wedding veil and left posed and placed in the small town of Andersonville.
Atlee can tell from looking that this is the work of someone who is just beginning, and that proves to be the case. The question in her mind, however, is whether these killings are related to her coming home to Andersonville, or whether this is simply coincidence and the work of an unrelated serial killer.
FBI Agent Eddie Laredo known to Atlee from her time at the BAU, is brought in to assist and he and Atlee, though they are not exactly bosom buddies, work together to identify this serial killer.
As Atlee works the case in parallel with conducting her own investigation into her sister’s disappearance, she meets a cast of characters who have all played an important part in her early years, though she remembers none of them clearly.
What she does discover though is a series of revelations – some deduced, others coming more from left field – which leave her reeling.
David Baldacci has created a really memorable and likeable character in Atlee Pine, though one who is never going to be at peace until she finds the truth. His storytelling is nuanced, layered and immensely compelling. Baldacci has that ability to create characters that you can visualise in your mind’s eye, make you like them and then place them in life threatening situations so that your heart pounds when danger approaches.
Verdict: Atlee Pine is a brilliant new contemporary character. David Baldacci’s storytelling is layered, complex and full of characters that you want to know better. His pacing is that of a super sleek racing car and his plotting full of twists, turns and surprising diversions that have the reader double de-clutching to work out what’s going on. Baldacci knows how to ramp up the tension and his mixture of thrills, suspense and family secrets is completely gripping.
David Baldacci is one of the world’s bestselling and favourite thriller writers. With over 130 million copies in print, his books are published in over eighty territories and forty-five languages, and have been adapted for both feature-film and television. David is also the co-founder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation®, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across the US.