After Long Road to Mercy, the first book in the Atlee Pine series by David Baldacci, I was looking forward to the second book, with a caveat. I really wanted Atlee (also called Lee by the locals) to learn more about the fate of her twin sister and what really happened in the past. And it seems I got my wish. This book took Atlee back to her Georgia hometown where she reopened the investigation into the disappearance of Mercy, and her own close encounter with death some 30 years ago.
I love all the David Baldacci books, so I knew this series would be a hit as well. Atlee is a strong character who doesn’t give up easily once she is on the trail of something she’s after. I also enjoyed her sidekick and assistant Carol Blum, who accompanied her on her journey back home to Andersonville. She had some of the best and most insightful lines in the book; often they were quite funny, too.
While the book started with Atlee visiting Daniel James Tor, the notorious serial killer, in prison, I was glad that the story didn’t really follow that direction – although that might change with book 3. Tor seems to be one of those attention-seeking evil characters who don’t care what they have to do to get their five minutes of enjoyment, even if they lead a person to follow a wrong trail. Thankfully, Lee is better than falling for such cheap tricks.
While Lee is investigating her own past, she also gets mixed up in another case that runs parallel to her own story. As she is working the two cases, Atlee starts remembering more details about her long-forgotten past, things that turn her investigation into a whole new direction. At some point, the two stories do intersect, and they reveal even more of the past that seemingly the entire town wants to keep hidden from her. The adage that small towns hide dark secrets is often all too true, especially in crime thriller novels.
The writing is, as usual with the Baldacci books, right on the spot, and there is a reason why I prefer reading books released by major publishing houses: the writing is usually flawless, devoid of too many (if at all) grammatical and spelling errors, with almost faultless editing. I love it when I read a book and I am engrossed in the characters and plot lines without a break in the flow caused by some silly grammar or weird syntax or faulty thought processes that are usually in books lacking proper editing. Having read some of those recently, it was a pure joy to immerse in the world of Atlee Pine.
I started reading the book on Saturday and finished it the same weekend. As a page-turner, the book hooked me in right away. The character development is superbly done, and the story set in that small Georgian town took me right to that secrets-ridden place with all those people with no real futures where some, just some, actually made it – but at what cost?
One additional point in favor of this book – there was a hint of romance, just a hint, without the book becoming too soapy – too romantic suspense in the process. The people were genuine and knew where the boundaries were and how to not cross them. I was glad that Baldacci didn’t feel the need to use the sex trope in his story.