David Baldacci has published many mystery/thrillers, several of which have been adapted for film and television, but I had not read any of his books before now. I received this book as a gift, so it seemed like a good opportunity to see what makes this author so popular.
Long Road to Mercy is the first in a new series about FBI agent Atlee Pine, 35, whose twin sister Mercy was abducted from their bedroom window and presumably murdered when the girls were six years old. Atlee believes that a brilliant serial killer, Daniel James Tor, was the one who took her sister, but she can’t prove it. He admitted to 34 killings but not to her sister’s. She is desperate for closure, but Tor has no reason to provide her with that satisfaction. The obsession over what happened to Mercy shaped her life; it made her a loner, and motivated her to get in the best possible physical condition so she would never be taken by surprise again.
Atlee works as the sole FBI agent in a remote office in Shattered Rock, Arizona. She is asked to go to the relatively nearby Grand Canyon for a case involving a missing tourist; his mule was found cut up but there was no evidence of the rider. Atlee, along with the fit, handsome ranger Sam Kettler, tried to find out what happened but Atlee was warned by her supervisors to let it go. This meant, of course, that she won’t. Before long, she gets involved in a complicated matter that seems to involve Russia, North Korea, China, the U.S. Army, and U.S. Intelligence. All she knows for sure is that her life is in danger.
This is not a problem however, since Atlee, whose name might have been “Jackie” Reacher (referring here to the cartoonishly invulnerable hero Jack Reacher in the series by Lee Child), is solid, muscular, previously competed in MMA (mixed martial arts) and kickboxing, and “had the toughness and confidence to survive in a man’s world.” She came within one kilo of making the U.S. Olympic team as a weightlifter and “her core was iron.”
In addition to handsome Sam, Atlee is also aided immensely by her clever and resourceful office secretary, Carol Blum. Blum is in her sixties and is always meticulously and professionally dressed. But she wouldn’t be out of place in a James Bond book as a secret operative.
Atlee has to navigate some of the most treacherous parts of the Grand Canyon to solve the mystery, but of course, she is up to it, as is Sam. What they discover is rather over the top, but perhaps a good match for their over-the-top characters and skill sets.
Evaluation: This book was good reading for an airplane ride, but I wouldn’t necessarily be tempted to follow up with the series or even with the author, unless perhaps I were to make along another cross-country trip. But I commend the book for educating readers on the flora, fauna, and conditions native to the Grand Canyon; there is plenty to learn in the story.
Published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, 2018