Minute to Midnight by
David Baldacci is the second in the Atlee Pine series. Baldacci
has a knack for creating a series that is suspenseful and
action-packed. This novel starts where the last in series
noted, “This is the continuation from the first book
where Atlee searched for her twin. In this novel, I wanted
her to have a dramatic experience that would lead to an ultimatum
that would give her a “get out of jail card.”
Basically, she was told not to work for the FBI until she
figures out her past. Everything else in the book flowed from
From the very first page, the intensity begins. Atlee Pine
is the only FBI Agent in Shattered Rock Arizona, and as she
is heading home, she hears of a child abduction. Atlee ends
up seeing the car and becomes involved in a chase. She saves
the child, Holly, from a terrible fate, but her actions in
apprehending the perpetrator results in her losing control,
leading to a violent altercation with the captured offender.
Atlee's boss strongly suggests that she take some time off
to sort her head out about her personal demons.
“One of my first female characters was Secret Service
Agent Michelle Maxwell who was a member of WIFLE, Women in
Federal Law Enforcement. I actually got a call from them and
was told I was the only author who had a character representing
this organization. They asked me to be the keynote speaker.
I spoke to 2,000 women with weapons. It was very intimidating.
After speaking with them, I found out about the hurdles they
had to overcome. I came away with the impression that they
have this intense drive. In this book, I hope readers are
able to see what someone like Atlee had to go through.”
Atlee decides that she needs to return to her childhood home
of Andersonville, Georgia, to find out what happened to her
twin sister, Mercy, 30 years ago. Knowing that she should
not go alone, her assistant Carol Blum goes on this journey
Pine's memories are hazy. She remembers how the abductor chose
to take her sister, leaving Pine with life threatening injuries.
She reflects on how these traumatic events led to her parents,
Tim and Julia, leaving Georgia and how it tore their marriage
apart. She lived with her mother until Julia left her. As
Atlee probes into the past, she uncovers shocking surprises
and secrets that have her questioning everything she ever
knew about her family. At the same time, a string of murders
occur which has Pine wondering whether they are coincidental
to her return.
“I wanted to show how human beings are the most malevolent
predators. We are one of the very few species that kill for
malice. Most animals kill to eat or protect. We kill to intimidate
or hurt someone that comes with the complexity of the human
brain. I feel the civilized world is one step away from being
non-civilized. I put in this quote, “It doesn’t
take much for civilized people to become animals.” With
this story, I hope I explained the motivation and rationale
behind what the bad people did.”
Known for his many twists and turns, Baldacci does not disappoint
in this novel. The bad news is that he has left many things
unresolved, while the good news is that there will be another
book with Atlee Pine as the main character.