FBI agent Atlee Pine is haunted by her past. When she was six years old, a man broke into her bedroom, hit her hard enough to fracture her skull and abducted her twin sister, Mercy. When their mother, Julia, checked on the girls at 6 a.m., she found Mercy gone and Atlee barely clinging to life.
Because a serial killer, Daniel James Tor, was operating in the area around Andersonville, Georgia, where Atlee and her family lived, she goes to see him, hoping he will confess to killing Mercy, at least to give her some closure. That doesn’t happen, but leaving the prison, Atlee sees a truck that has been flagged in an Amber Alert. She manages to save the young girl, but savagely beats the kidnapper. Her supervisor in the Arizona office where she’s based, decides not to sanction Atlee, but demands that she take a leave. Accompanied by her assistant, Carol Blum, Atlee travels back to Andersonville. Thirty years have passed since her sister disappeared, but Atlee now plans to use her skills as an FBI investigator to finally discover what happened and if Mercy is still alive.
Atlee’s parents divorced when she was a teen. Many locals thought that Atlee’s father, Tim, had killed Mercy and harmed Atlee. Unable to withstand the scrutiny, he committed suicide, shooting himself with a rifle. Atlee had barely survived losing her father when she came home from college to find the her mother had left, leaving her daughter enough money to complete school and little else.
Arriving in Andersonville, Atlee’s first stop is her former family home, now a dilapidated wreck inhabited by a squatter named Cyrus Tanner along with his aging lab, Roscoe. He’s happy to let Atlee look around, but there’s little left from her time living there. Andersonville’s main employer is a bauxite mine, but the city also transformed itself into a tourist mecca, staging mock Civil War battles and promoting a museum and cemetery.
After settling into rooms at a quaint inn called the Cottage, Atlee with Carol’s help, begins to visit any residents who might remember her family. A few stand out, including Jackson Lineberry, a wealthy investor who was friends with both of Atlee’s parents. Other residents, Myron and Britta Pringle, are an odd couple and not forthcoming with information. Atlee’s gut tells her no one is telling the complete truth.
But before Atlee can get too far in her investigation, the body of a young woman, posed to look like a bride complete with wedding veil, is found in an alleyway. Shortly after, the body of a young man, dressed like the groom, turns up in the cemetery. Max Wallis, a deputy from the Georgia Bureau of investigation, is happy to have Atlee’s help. But with a possible serial killer on the loose, the FBI formally assigns to the case someone Atlee knows. She and FBI Special Agent Eddie Laredo have a history and Atlee hopes that won’t interfere with both investigations.
David Baldacci is one of the best mystery writers around. And his Atlee Pine series – this is the second one – is highly addictive. A Minute to Midnight ends on a tantalizing note, creating anticipation for book number three.
A Minute to Midnight
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