David Baldacci launches series with ‘Long Road to Mercy,’ but it’s talky, tired
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David Baldacci has written numerous bestsellers, creating simple, appealing characters involved in big stakes, often in staccato one-sentence paragraphs.
In his new novel “Long Road to Mercy” (Grand Central, $29), he starts off strong and offers an unforgettable backstory to the tale of Atlee Pine.
When she was 6, Pine watched as a man came into her bedroom and took her sister, Mercy. As the book begins, Pine has found sanctuary in the FBI — she’s a tough agent, preferring to work as far from others as possible, her current beat a remote office close to the Grand Canyon — and is taking to the road to visit the death-row prisoner she suspects of having kidnapped her sister.
Unfortunately, that’s only a tease from Baldacci, to be pursued in other books. Almost immediately, Pine returns to a less personal case: Deep in the canyon, a stolen mule has been found dead, and its rider wasn’t just another tourist. Soon, Pine is running rogue, with her plucky secretary in tow, unsure whether they can trust even the FBI itself, with Russia and North Korea (both!) on their tails.
“Long Road to Mercy” is all over the place, overstuffed, brief when it needs more explanation, expansive when it doesn’t.
It’s hard not to laugh near the end when a character asks Pine: “So, how did thing turns out with the nukes and stuff?” It’s about the level of interest the author shows in his own improbable plotline.
Charles Finch is author of the Charles Lenox mystery series.