Featured Review: ‘Long Road to Mercy’ by David Baldacci

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51UIAQPCQTL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_#1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci introduces his new series character, Atlee Pine, his first-ever female protagonist, in Long Road to Mercy

Having grown up in Andersonville, Georgia, FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s childhood was defined by one horrific moment when her twin sister, Mercy, was kidnapped in the summer of 1989. She was never located, dead or alive, and her whereabouts remain a mystery to this day, prompting Atlee — who wrestles with survivor’s guilt — to go searching for answers.

After taking a new position in Shattered Rock, Arizona, near the Grand Canyon National Park, Atlee begins investigating her sister’s disappearance in her free time. Her quest for answers leads her to a supermax prison near Denver, which is home to notorious criminals such as the Unabomber and the Boston Marathon Bomber, along with gang and cartel leaders, white supremacists, and even mafia bosses. Patrolled by guards 24/7 and protected by state-of-the-art security features and good old-fashioned endless rows of concrete, the prison is built to keep evil inside, including a man named Tor, who is perhaps the evilest of all the sadistic inmates currently incarcerated at ADX Florence. 

Standing well above six feet and a whopping 280 pounds of muscle, Daniel James Tor is a good-looking mountain of a man who is both brilliant and narcissistic. Quietly, he might be the most prolific serial killer ever. He’s also the man Atlee wants to question. She’d done her homework and knew of Tor’s fondness for math, then traced the locations of his victims, carefully mapping them out to reveal a rhombus-like shape when including the address of the home she grew up in — where Mercy was taken from. Looking him in the eyes, separated by a thick wall of glass, Atlee wants to know why he took her sister, how she died, and where her remains are. Instead, the muscled-up Hannibal Lector-like psychopath turns the tables, toying with Pine and challenging her. She doesn’t give into his antics, but she also doesn’t get the answers she’s longed for and is forced to leave, wondering what, exactly, the clever killer had meant with his responses.

Knowing Tor’s too smart to utter anything without having a distinct purpose for his words, Atlee walks away troubled, but has no time to focus on her personal case after a mule wrangler finds one of his mules in the Grand Canyon, stabbed to death and gutted. More pressing is the fact that the tourist riding the mule has gone missing, prompting a widespread ground search for the man that bears little fruit. Though Mercy is never far from her mind, nor is the intimidating presence of Tor, Atlee continues on with her search for the mule rider somewhat distractedly, only to find that the person of interest isn’t who they expected and that a far more dangerous scenario may be playing out before her.

Shockingly, Atlee is pulled from her assignment just as she begins making headway on the case and is forced to make the toughest decision since she joined the FBI. While she was focused on one monster, another quietly emerged . . . and going after them just might cost Atlee Pine her career and her life. 

Baldacci, who has no shortage of go-to heroes in his stable of bestselling series, does a fine job with Atlee, who is very different from anyone else he’s built a franchise around. Whereas the author tends to target big cities in past books, Atlee is based out west in an isolated location where she’s one of the only FBI agents for hundreds of miles. She does share some minor similarities with Amos Decker (The Fallen, 2018), including the fact that she’s endured a painful past and now uses those memories to fuel her career within the agency, but overall she’s unique and offers Baldacci’s readers a fresh series to check out. The writing is solid, the pacing is fast, and the plot has enough suspense and misdirection to keep readers engaged and guessing right up until the end. Expect to see Atlee Pine join Will Robie, Amos Decker, and John Puller on the New York Times bestsellers list this fall. 

David Baldacci continues to expand his universes by kicking off a promising new series with Long Road to Mercy, another top-notch thriller from one of today’s most popular storytellers.

Book Details

Author: David Baldacci
Series: Atlee Pine #1
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1538761572
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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