Mercy (Atlee Pine #4) – David Baldacci

Mercy David Baldacci
Mercy by David Baldacci
Also by this author: Bullseye, Daylight
Series: Atlee Pine #4
Published by Grand Central Publishing on November 16, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
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two-half-stars

FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s harrowing search for her long-lost sister Mercy reaches a boiling point in this breakneck thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci.   For her entire life, FBI agent Atlee Pine has been searching for her twin sister, Mercy, who was abducted at the age of six and never seen again. Mercy’s disappearance left behind a damaged family that later shattered beyond repair when Atlee’s parents inexplicably abandoned her. Now, after a perilous investigation that nearly proved fatal, Atlee has finally discovered not only the reason behind her parents’ abandonment and Mercy’s kidnapping, but also the most promising breakthrough yet: proof that Mercy survived her abduction and then escaped her captors many years ago.  Though Atlee is tantalizingly close to her family at last, the final leg of her long road to Mercy will be the most treacherous yet. Mercy left at least one dead body behind before fleeing her captors years before. Atlee has no idea if her sister is still alive, and if so, how she has been surviving all this time. When the truth is finally revealed, Atlee Pine will face the greatest danger yet, and it may well cost her everything.

I had no clue how David Baldacci was going to write his way out of the increasingly convoluted overarching storyline in his Atlee Pine novels. Mercy, the fourth and final book in the series is all set to finally give readers the payoff they’ve been waiting for ever since 2018’s Long Road to Mercy. Turns out that Baldacci had very little clue either as he frantically stitches together all the loose threads and barely writes himself out of the corner he’d put himself in.

Baldacci is always over the top. At his best, he reads like a Stallone movie or a Fast and Furious. At his worst, he reads like if Days of Our Lives was for sixty-year-old men. Mercy threads the line somewhere between. Don’t look too close or think too hard and you’ll never notice how flimsy the plot is. Movies have the advantage of being visual to cover up a paper-thin plot. Books are inherently cerebral. It’s harder to let things go.

No fewer than five times, Baldacci has various characters rehash the plot to the current point. If you have to remind your reader that often of the storyline, that’s not a good sign. He also veers off course in having a large majority of the novel not written in Atlee’s perspective. We get a good deal from Mercy’s viewpoint and a fair amount from the villain, but you know what’s missing in this Atlee Pine novel? Atlee Pine.

Baldacci also seems to realize that he’s run out tension for the chase to find Mercy. Now, somewhat randomly and haphazardly, a new villain is introduced. Buckley wants Mercy dead because Mercy killed his brother. This is not connected to the previous story in any way, despite literally everything else in this story being interconnected somehow. It’s an unnecessary plot that drives the third act (possibly introducing Baldacci’s next big protagonist? If so, I called it.) and is as laughably over the top as an old Bond or Batman villain.

Despite all this…I read the whole thing and I enjoyed it. But I enjoyed it on the strength of the previous books in the series. Carol Blum finally getting the spotlight and rocking it was the book’s highlight for me and I’m glad I read the series just for that. Mercy’s background puts focus on the types of moral issues that Baldacci likes to raise in his novels and was a good read with a compelling character. The actual storyline of Mercy wasn’t bad, it just had a difficult time fitting into the overarching story thus far. The plot would have made more sense stripped down as a standalone novel. Being an Atlee Pine book makes it less of a good book, which is unfortunate because it’s the culmination of the Atlee/Mercy storyline.

In the end, it just left me sort of ambivalent. I’m glad to have resolution, but the resolution wasn’t the most exciting and Baldacci just sort of glosses over the emotional aspects of being reunited after thirty years apart. I wondered if Baldacci lost interest in this series (or if he thought fans had) when he introduced John Puller into Daylight (book three). That seems almost confirmed for me here. It’s a fun book, but falls short of what it could have been.

two-half-stars