Reviewed by Ian Lipke
The third volume of the Atlee Pine trilogy is called Daylight. Readers can find out for themselves why this name was chosen. It is significant that not one of the critiques I have read so far makes any attempt to explain the title. Atlee Pine, an FBI agent, is still taking time away from her duties to find an answer to what has happened to her sister Mercy so many, many years ago.
The story flows in its usual style. A series of forward steps is followed by interruptions that can be quite significant. There is also some farce. Pine goes to question a bad guy, but he charges out the back door and runs. Pine chases but his legs are longer, and certainly faster, than hers. Compounding the farce is a collision between Pine of the FBI with John Puller of Army CID, who happens to be a colleague from a sister organization of crim catchers. Crim escapes, law enforcement crash into one another.
Readers will realize that, while my treatment is light, the book’s content is of serious things and Baldacci has constructed his crime novel with the degree of artistry we’ve come to expect from him. While the construction varies little from thousands of other similar novels, it never moves outside the ‘safe’ category. This is a pity as Baldacci shows on a regular basis that he can write. However, events are the triggers which send his stories in a particular direction. There is nothing in his heroes that force them, even unconsciously, to take a certain path. There is never an underlying motive that brings a character to a particular end. There is no wrong that has to be set right before there can be peace. Rather, we get A followed by B followed by C – each diverting the plot to a previously determined end.
Atlee Pine is a young woman who lives in the world of men, young, middle-aged and old. Men and women, one would expect, are likely to be interested in the opposite sex. Atlee Pine is a successful agent and accrues the respect of her bosses. Yet her only companion is Carol Blum. There is no suggestion of a sexual relationship between them or with anybody else. In fact, Baldacci’s characters, especially Pine, seem to be sexless creatures. The exception is more likely to lie with the minor characters, some of whom are married, although it is rare that we meet the spouses.
From what we can gather from Baldacci’s stories, his settings, while appropriate, vary in degree of fullness. The house that Pine investigates on pages 20 – 21 is an example that tells us about the lifestyle of the regular inhabitant and allows us to see into the complex mind of the searcher as she goes about her business. The pictures Pine sees provides the author with an opportunity to re-hash the story told in the earlier books in the series. However, the approach to the setting on (232 – 233) is different. Not only is there description of the gym and of its inhabitants, but also conversation back and forth that defines not only the atmosphere but the typology of the persons present. We also get a reading of the clients and the manager.
I’m disappointed in this particular volume of the Atlee Pine series. It seems to be aimless, just waiting around, hoping that something will happen. Not his best.
By David Baldacci
$32.99; 416 pp