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Baldacci's new army sleuth inspires a sense of deja vu

Zero Day by David Baldacci Macmillan, 2011

An indomitable army sleuth comes to a small American town to solve murders and teams up with the local sheriff -- an attractive, available female. Having read Lee Child's latest novel The Affair last month, I had a sense of deja vu after reading David Baldacci's Zero Day.

Baldacci sees this book as the first of a series.

His protagonist, John Puller, has many parallels to Child's Jack Reacher. Puller stands just under 6ft 4in, slightly shorter than Reacher, and in peak condition. Along with their army background they both sleep on demand, have reliable internal clocks and can disable bad guys with startling ease. As investigators, they have the same keen eye for detail and well-honed, perceptive instincts.

Puller is one of the army's best investigators, despite carrying the "scars and stars" of past battles. His war-hero father is a retired three-star general, now suffering from dementia. His genius brother, also an army officer, is in jail for treason.

Aided by his car boot-full of equipment and a rucksack that seems to bear a remarkable similarity to Mary Poppins' carpet bag, he's well equipped to deal with all eventualities.

Puller is called in to investigate the murder of Colonel Matthew Reynolds, his wife and two children in the West Virginia town of Drake.

Like Reacher in The Affair, Puller teams up with an attractive local sheriff to track down the killers.


Samantha is a local gal. Her alluring, self-absorbed sister is married to the local coal-mining millionaire and her brother is an unhappy drunk, still struggling to get over the accidental deaths of their parents five years earlier.

Suspicion shifts as the casualties mount. With army intelligence suggesting a terrorist threat, Puller and Cole risk becoming casualties themselves.

Baldacci creates plenty of tension and the sub plots are well woven. Intrigue builds well as time runs short for the main characters near the climax.

The dialogue is lively with far too many acronyms, which Baldacci defends as authentic 'army speak'. Deciphering DIA, SAC, SCI, SAP, BCD, USACIL, WOs bogs the reader down.

I enjoyed the return of the regular Baldacci themes of power and greed, good guys turning bad and the genuinely good characters trying to combat them, along with the usual tightly developed action and well- created suspense.

For those who enjoy Baldacci and Lee Child's, Jack Reacher, it's an ideal read!