Long Road to Mercy introduces Atlee Pine

Long Road to Mercy book review

What is this about?: Atlee Pine is a loner by choice. Her twin was kidnapped as a child from their home when they were like 6, and from that point on her life has been defined by the absence of Mercy, her sister. So as you can see, apt title is apt. In this book, readers are introduced to her, and what amounts to a case that happens to involve the Grand Canyon.

What else is this about?: This is about getting to know Atlee, about her history and how it’s shaped her future.

Blurb

#1 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 unraveling a rash of other similar missing persons cases in the canyon. . .

Long Road to Mercy begins without giving readers much to understand Atlee, though I suppose given that she is defined by the absence of her twin, there isn’t much else to know about her at first. She is focused on nothing more than finding her twin’s body.

She is located at an office near the Grand Canyon, where there’s just her and her assistant, Carol. One day, a mule — you know those treks that take people down to the Canyon? Well, a mule is found dead on the trail and it’s rider is gone missing and from there, Atlee and Carol go on an epic twisty case. 

Atlee and Carol

I feel like there’s something missing in this book, but I’ll be damned if I can pinpoint what it is — and this is driving me crazy.

As the book continues, we learn more about Atlee, about how she finds herself falling for a ranger, and how she Thelma-and-Louise’s her way across the country and the case with Carol. It’s almost as if she’s allowing herself to live her life when before, there wasn’t much else but her job and her sister’s kidnapping. But the book perhaps doesn’t let readers in on enough of Atlee to get a better sense of her. Or maybe it’s just me that didn’t get it.

Carol is the secret weapon in this book. Her no-nonsense attitude and practicality are a perfect match for Atlee, and she brings levity to Atlee’s very straight FBI agent.

Seeing how Atlee warms to her, as they investigate makes me look forward to their next case.

The case

The case is big. B-I-G. Which given it involves the Grand Canyon, is apt, yes? The political intrigue didn’t quite fit I felt, but that is just one explanation in a rather larger, exciting narrative. 

At it’s heart, this is a mystery, involving two very different investigators, that are getting to know each other, as much as readers are getting to know them.

It’s a solid read, but it hasn’t yet found the WOW-factor I found in Baldacci’s other work like the Amos Decker series.

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