I think at some point I told you about my family's tradition (began last year) to give a book on Christmas Eve and then spend the day and night reading. This year my husband wanted to get me something that would surprise me, so he picked out David Baldacci's newest, Long Road to Mercy.
Altee Pine is doing what she does best as an FBI field agent assigned to A small area in Arizona. It’s what she prefers to the stuffy, suited world of the East Coast. Her domain includes the Grand Canyon, so she is called out one morning when tour guides find a mule dead and a client missing. Little does Atlee know that this confusing case will lead to twists and turns, dips and peaks, leading her on a chase for people from the Southwest to the Northeast that don’t seem to exist yet are putting national security at risk. It’s literally a matter of life and death for Atlee and many residents of the United States.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Baldacci’s work overall. It shouldn’t surprise me — the man is a prolific crime writer with dozens of tomes to his name — but as this was my first foray into Baldacci-dom, I found myself quite pleased with the book overall. He weaves a tight narrative, keeps me on my toes, and builds suspense so that it keeps me plowing through the pages with a forcefulness that mimicks the protagonists’. This wasn’t a page-turner in the sense that I absolutely had to find out what happened next; rather, there was a forcefulness to the mission to support to Pine in discovering the truth that Baldacci made me feel was my responsibility.
Pine was also a great character. She has her flaws and her weaknesses, but she is a hard-ass who has no shame in being exactly who she is. She loves her job and also doesn’t take shit from anyone, as attested by the hole she punched in her wall to get a suspect to talk. She slowly and skeptically let’s her secretary in to become her unexpected partner, and while she is hesitant, I came to see the deep humanity in this character. I loved how smart she was — and how she owned it — and how Baldacci used his character as the backbone of the story that drove it. I’m unsure that this particular mystery would have been solved without Pine.
The best surprise? My husband’s name in the final pages. He didn’t know anything about this, but imagine how my jaw absolutely dropped when I read this.