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mae woods book review

Rocky Mount Telegram - 3/5/2017

A complex, elaborate plot introduces a fast paced thriller that follows two story lines seemingly unconnected at first, but when they converge, a number of lives will never be the same again. In “No Man’s Land,” (Grand Central; $29) author David Baldacci’s narrative begins when combat veteran Special Agent John Puller, just back from an investigation in Germany hastens to see his father, a former three-star general who is rapidly declining mentally at the VA hospital. Puller, Jr. realized he was losing his father-- a man who had successfully led his men into battle over several decades, a man who had earned virtually every medal, commendation, and promotion the service offered.

Puller answered a knock on the hospital room door. Two strange men said they were there about his father and had a deathbed letter from one of his mother’s friends that accused his father of having murdered her. Thirty years earlier, at Fort Monroe, when Puller was a small child, his mother disappeared. Now, decades later, the letter opened an investigation that is summarily pursued by the CID. Puller decides to investigate the matter on his own despite the army’s orders that he cease and desist. Whatever is behind the order, Puller persists on his own investigation. He is told that his father came back to Ft. Monroe a day earlier then was scheduled and just hours before his mother disappeared. Further clues show that General Puller found out about a super soldier research program and came home early to confront Claire Jericho who headed up the program.

There had been a serial killer on the loose. Four women with diverse careers (a biologist, a chemist, a computer programmer, an engineer) had been killed-- the only thing in common was a national security tag. There had to be a cover up, and Puller still did not know if his mother’s disappearance was connected to it. Baldacci’s characters are well developed and believable through all the twists and turns of the Puller episodes; we care about all of them.

At the same time as Puller sat with his father, a different scenario was taking place in a maximum security prison. Paul Rogers in the tenth year of a fifteen year sentence for second-degree murder, stood as a pair of guards led him down a long hallway. “Okay. Rogers let’s go. Your parole was granted. I know it was supposed to be tomorrow, but the clerk put the wrong date on the order.” In answer to the second man’s query, the older guard told the other how Rogers had scars all over his body; nobody had the courage to ask where he got them. In the ten years in the prison, nobody ever heard him talk. He had been placed in a cell by himself with no one to antagonize him. So there was no one to bring out the monster that lurked just under his skin.

Now free, The monster had one more thing to do, and that meant travel to Fort Monroe to settle an account with Claire Jericho, the woman who had used him as a guinea pig in the experimental attempt to create a super fearless and soulless soldier fighting-machine . The Pentagon shut down the program, but Jericho planned to recapture Rogers and continue, financed by millionaire Chris Ballard.

The narrative is rich in character development and nail-biting action. It would spoil a reader’s grip on the riveting elements if we gave away the startling denouement.

David Baldacci’s books are published in over 45 languages and in more than 80 countries. His novels have been adapted for both feature films and television. Baldacci and his wife are cofounders of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across America. He is still a resident of his native Virginia.

Excerpt:

In the middle of the wall was a wooden gate as high as the wall. He trudged along the beach after taking off his shoes and socks and rolling up his pants legs. When he was a hundred yards past it, he heard something. He turned to see the gate opening.

Out marched three beefy armed men, obviously security. Behind them was a sand-colored golf cart with cognac-colored seats driven by another security man. A second armed man sat next to him.

In the rear seat of the vehicle was an elderly man in a white robe and a Panama hat with a black band. Next to him sat a young woman in a pale blue sheer cover--up.

The old guy was Ballard, Rogers was pretty certain. He was the right age, and who else would get a chauffeur-driven golf cart ride to the beach?

They drove down near the water and parked. The security men laid out a large blanket, lounge chairs, a table, and a basket. Then they stepped back and formed a ring around the man and woman as they climbed out of the vehicle, the woman supporting the man.

She led him over to one of the chairs and helped him off with his robe. Underneath he had on bathing trunks and a T-shirt. His body was reedy and his chest sunken. He seemed particularly frail. She put sunscreen on his exposed skin and settled him in his chair.

She lay down on the blanket face down in front of the man. Her tight gluts only half covered by the bikini bottom. Ballard didn’t seem to care. He just stared out at the water.

Yet Rogers caught one of the security men taking a peek at the woman before moving his gaze outward. By the time he spotted Rogers, the latter had already turned and was slowly heading down the beach. A hundred yards later, Rogers stopped and walked over to the water, letting it rush over his feet.

The next sound made him turn and look back down the beach.

It was a sound of gathering power.

Then a rumble as that gathering power was set free.

About ten seconds later, the Falcon 2000 cleared the foliage that ran the length of the runway on the beach side, soared into the air, banked hard right over the water, straightened out, and continued its rapid ascent.

Rogers looked over at the man and woman.

The old man was still staring aimlessly out toward the water.

The young woman was up on her haunches and waved.

Rogers turned to follow her gaze and watched the twin plumes of the exhaust from the plane’s jet engines smear the otherwise clear sky.

So who was in the Falcon?

 
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