A Minute to Midnight

by David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing, November 2019, $29

We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t go home again,” but for FBI Agent Atlee Pine, returning to Andersonville, Georgia, where her life was irrevocably altered as a child when her twin sister Mercy was kidnapped, may be the only way for Pine to get her act together after her traumatic past contributes to a confrontation with a kidnapping suspect going explosive on the job.

Accompanied by her assistant, the steely and formidable Carol Blum, Atlee’s search for the truth is complicated by surfacing memories that don’t coincide with what she’s always believed about her past and evasiveness from the people who knew her as a child. What’s more, almost immediately upon her return to Andersonville, dead bodies start showing up around town dressed in old-fashioned outfits and laid out in a seemingly ritualistic fashion. Atlee and local authorities begin to suspect a serial killer at work.

The FBI sends an agent to work the case, and Atlee isn’t pleased when it turns out to be Eddie Laredo, an agent with whom she shares an unhappy past. As the investigation progresses, Atlee soon finds herself caught up in a sinister plot that threatens her safety and those around her.

I found myself particularly enjoying the way the story continues to develop the growing partnership between Atlee and Carol Blum. I found the details surrounding Eddie Laredo’s inclusion to be intriguing as well. He’s someone who has made mistakes, but who shows growth and repentance for his past actions. And Max Wallis, the local law in Andersonville, is a nice addition. The fact that he accepts help when he recognizes his own limitations makes him a memorable character.

What really makes this book so appealing, though, is how David Baldacci spins the narrative on a dime. In the first Atlee Pine thriller, Long Road to Mercy, it was all about a grand global conspiracy. A Minute to Midnight is a far more intimate story. The stakes are high, but far more personal in nature. Atlee’s search for answers to the questions that have haunted and defined her life will leave her rocked to her very core. That isn’t good news for her, but for readers, it will certainly provide them one of the more entertaining thrill rides of the year.

Jay Roberts
Teri Duerr
November 2019
Grand Central Publishing