New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci introduces a remarkable new character: Atlee Pine, an FBI special agent assigned to the remote wilds of the western United States. Ever since her twin sister was abducted by a notorious serial killer at age five, Atlee has spent her life hunting down those who hurt others. And she’s the best at it. She could be one of the Bureau’s top criminal profilers, if she didn’t prefer catching criminals in the vast wilderness of the West to climbing the career ladder in the D.C. office. Her chosen mission is a lonesome one–but that suits her just fine.
Now, Atlee is called in to investigate the mutilated carcass of a mule found in the Grand Canyon–and hopefully, solve the disappearance of its rider. But this isn’t the only recent disappearance. In fact, it may be just the first clue, the key to unravelling a rash of other similar missing persons cases in the canyon. . .
It was about this time last year that I read David Baldacci’s book The Christmas Train, a real good feeling book about, you’ve guessed it, Christmas! It’s the same old story – travelling at Christmas in inclement weather, and an adventure with plenty of intrigue. I think I was twenty pages in when I suddenly thought this would make a charming film and guess what, they made one! I digress! Halfway through Long Road to Mercy there’s a thrilling scene set on a train travelling across America, it made me think of David’s previous book! Plenty of subject matter and imagination available there then!
So this time around we are introduced to Atlee Pine, Baldacci’s first female lead and in a time of #metoo and sexual equality Atlee has arrived just in time, in fact her timing is impeccable. She’s a ballsy character and one who knows what she wants and how to get it. She’s intelligent and clever and can beat most men at hand to hand combat, she also has a soft side but that takes a little coaxing out!
Atlee carries a lot of baggage as we soon discover, attacked at the age of 5 in her own bedroom, the abduction of her twin sister Mercy that same night, helps mould her into the fierce loner we are introduced to. She doesn’t enjoy relationships, a loner as I’ve just said and someone who’s really not interested in climbing the corporate FBI ladder. Give her a beer at the end of the day and she’s happy.
Atlee Pine’s name came to me very swiftly. I wrote it down and then thought about what sort of character I wanted to build from that. As a writer, I think you can tell when you want to stretch your wings and challenge yourself to do something different. Writing a female as the lead protagonist was something different for me, and it was a challenge for me as a male to write a female character. Doing something different with each book is what drives me as a writer and what keeps me excited. I hope this means that readers are excited when they’re reading it too.
Long Road to Mercy moves at a frenetic pace, helped in part by great characterisation – especially Atlee and her secretary Blum – who following a sticky beginning, click and help carry the storyline along. I really enjoyed the story, how Baldacci brought in relevant and current international topics of concern – Russia and North Korea to name but two – and the bad guys you find yourself hating! It always amazes me how authors can get this reaction out of readers but it helps when you have an author at the top of his game.
The length is just about spot on but the final third flies by in the blink of an eye with quick chapters and great adventure. The only question left is who will end on top and will Atlee save the day? I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out – I know!
Long Road to Mercy will be published on November 15th, 2018 by Pan Macmillan.