Release Date: October 31, 2011
Buying Links: Amazon The Book Depository
Book Blurb (from goodreads):
In this heart-racing thriller by bestselling writer David Baldacci, the author of Hell's Corner, military investigator John Puller is called to a remote, rural area where an entire family have been murdered in their home.
John Puller is a former war hero who has become the best military investigator in the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigative Division. He is a loner who has an unstoppable determination for finding the truth.
As he investigates the murder case, John learns that the dead husband was in the army and the wife worked for a Pentagon contractor. John makes plenty of enemies whilst working this case, including a local homicide detective, a woman who has personal problems of her own.(less)
She moved forward too.
Puller saw it and launched, He hit Cole right in the gut, lifting her off the ground. They tumbled back toward the tree line two seconds before the truck detonated. A front wheel landed within six inches of them. Debris crashed down around them. Puller covered Cole with his body. A long strip of rubber landed across the back of his legs. It stung, but did no permanent damage. He would have a welt there, but that was all.
As the flames leapt over the truck, Puller knew he had a second problem. He grabbed Cole by the arm, lifted her over his shoulder, and ran into the woods. A few seconds later, the gas tank exploded, sending a second wave of wreckage sailing in all directions.
I have a weakness for military suspense novels. Partly it's due to my love of mysteries, partly it's due to a partiality for things military since I grew up as a military brat, and partly due to a fascination with the way various writers handle writing about the US government and military. Despite a certain partiality for the military, I also tend to be a skeptic and know that neither the government nor the military are always the best they can be nor looking out for what's best for the country. Baldacci writes intimately about the US government and military as well as the various alphabet agencies in his books, and he writes with a somewhat cynical eye while portraying his deep love for and belief in the US. It can be a tricky balance and he pulls it off well.
In "Zero Day" our protagonist, John Puller, is an enlisted man in the Army, from an Army family. His father, now retired, was a much decorated, respected, and feared three star Army general; his brother was a scientist and a major in the Army. John, or Puller as he's usually called, often has to defend his choice to go the enlisted route instead of the officer route. Puller likes his current work investigating military related crimes and is content to stay there. His personal life is also complicated - his father is not in good health, seemingly from dementia though Baldacci never actually says, and his brother is serving a life sentence for treason, though again we're never given details.
Baldacci does give lots of details on things such as weaponry, investigative techniques, chain of command, etc. At times it felt like too much detail, as if I were reading a manual, but some readers may enjoy that. The story also gets overly complicated at times and, despite his propensity, for detail, Baldacci has a knack for withholding certain details and facts until just the right moment in the story. At times that was frustrating. When Baldacci finally reveals one of the conspirators, Puller claims to have suspected him from early on but we weren't shown that. I was more surprised by Puller's claim than I was by the identity of the conspirator.
Still, Puller is a fascinating character and I enjoyed his interactions, especially with his family. I hope we'll get more books with him. The other characters are well done and felt real. The overall story is well written and complex, with more depth than I expect in a book in this genre. I really liked the different setting, rural West Virginia, and learning more about both the coal mining business and the military and the government's early work with nuclear weapons. It's a long, somewhat complicated read (all those details) so don't read it when you're tired or short on time, but do read it.
I received a hardcover from the publisher for review.