A Minute To Midnight by David Baldacci

A Minute To Midnight by David Baldacci
Publisher: Pan Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s life was never the same after her twin sister Mercy was kidnapped — and likely killed — thirty years ago. After a lifetime of torturous uncertainty, Atlee’s unresolved anger finally gets the better of her on the job, and she finds she has to deal with the demons of her past if she wants to remain with the FBI.

Atlee and her assistant Carol Blum head back to Atlee’s rural hometown in Georgia to see what they can uncover about the traumatic night Mercy was taken and Pine was almost killed. But soon after Atlee begins her investigation, a local woman is found ritualistically murdered, her face covered with a wedding veil — and the first killing is quickly followed by a second bizarre murder.

Atlee is determined to continue her search for answers, but now she must also set her sights on finding a potential serial killer before another victim is claimed. But in a small town full of secrets — some of which could answer the questions that have plagued Atlee her entire life — and digging deeper into the past could be more dangerous than she realizes . . .

Special Agent Atlee Pine is forced into taking some downtime after she loses control rescuing a small girl from her kidnapper. With her friend and assistant, Pine decides to use this time to return to the small town where everything began for her – the place where her twin sister Mercy was kidnapped and probably murdered. Pine and Blum start to ask questions and many of the folk in the town still recall Atlee from her youth. Only then murders begin to happen in this small, sleepy little town with virtually no crime. Can they get to the bottom of what’s really happening?

This is the second book featuring Agent Atlee Pine and I thought it was a good addition to the series. The main plot arc through this series definitely appears to be Atlee Pine discovering what happened to her twin sister that day many years ago and while the story is absolutely convoluted, I feel there definitely was some progress to it. The many threads to this plot, however, does tend to make the story as a whole feel slower paced and more meandering than I’m used to in action/thrillers and most mystery books – particularly since it spans over a number of books and obviously can’t be resolved within just the one story. While I can understand the appeal of this, I also can see why some readers might feel this slows the pace a bit more than they’d like.

I thought the author had a good balance between giving a significant amount of time to the plot of Mercy and what happened all those year ago, but equally the investigation into the recent murder and the plot of the newer killer. This is quite a large book and so I thought while the plots were both pretty large, they both added significantly to the story. I also thought the newer murders helped the book not feel too bogged down in the past. The history tended to make the story feel slower and I definitely thought the fresher murders helped inject some action and quicker pace into the story as a whole.

Readers looking for a fast paced, action type of thriller might not find this story suits quite what they’re after. I also feel that while this story can be read as a standalone enough headway was made in Atlee investigating her sister’s kidnapping this book will be critical for those wanting to move forward with the rest of the series. Readers who enjoy a convoluted plot and multiple strong storylines all running concurrently likely will feel this is a solid mystery and well worth their time.

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