A Minute to Midnight (Atlee Pine Book 2)

David Baldacci

Grand Central Publishing

Nov 19th, 2019

A 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 off where the first one stopped.

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.

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 with her. 

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.

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.

Elise Cooper: You wrote a new series?

David Baldacci:  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 this.  

EC: Atlee is a woman who served in a man’s world?

DB:  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.  

EC:  Your killer was a horrific person?

DB:  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.

EC:  How would you describe Atlee?

DB: Really tough and stubborn, yet incredibly fragile at the same time.  She is athletic, tenacious, smart, and unforgiving. She beats to her own drum.  She likes working in Arizona because she is a loner ever since she lost her twin sister.  Because she is not as formidable as she thinks I gave her help.

EC:  You mean with her assistant, Carol Blum?

DB:  Yes, I teamed her with an older administrator.  Carol has become a mother and mentor to Atlee.  She is a mother of six and has a lot of professional experience.  She is clever, honest and efficient with a good sense of humor.

EC: How would you describe her FBI partner Eddie Laredo?

DB: He represents a person who learned from his mistakes and actually apologized for his past behavior, a decent guy.  This is why I put in this quote, “I was a dick to you.  I was all Mister Testosterone, showing you who was the boss and not believing that women belonged at the Bureau. I did everything to screw with you.” This is a positive for Atlee to see the good in people and that they can change.  Unfortunately for him, he found out that being an agent is an unforgiving job. It is not a 9 to 5 job.

EC: It is an interesting how you show that children only know what their parents tell them?

DB: It is a given that most children believe what their parents say is true.  What makes it dramatic for Atlee is that everything she was told by her parents is a lie.  It would be devastating for anyone.  Atlee has the attitude, “I don’t know who my parents were so I don’t know who I am”. She feels that element of trust between parent and child was broken.

EC: Why set it in Andersonville Georgia?

DB: It is a real rural town surrounded by a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp during the final fourteen months of the American Civil War. It is notorious since 13,000 Union prisoners died there. The town has a national historic site, a cemetery, mock war battles, and a parade. Everything described in the book is real.  The population is about 250 people.  The rural part is important for me because that is where the serial killer operated. Also, the historical elements play an important part regarding the plot and atmosphere.  

EC:  There are tidbits about cars in the book?

DB: I put in the information because it made sense to the plot.  You are referring to the Pgani Huay and the 1967 Mustang.  I do not personally collect cars, but the town where I live in Florida has the biggest car show in America.  They have all the different types of cars parading down the streets.  I like looking at cars because my father was a mechanic who fixed up old cars.

EC:  I laughed when I read the quote about dogs, “Beats people by a long shot.” Please explain.

DB:  They will love you forever.  I am a dog person and have had one ever since I was a child.  I have two dogs who I love dearly.  There was this study that found people who have dogs will live longer, their quality of life is better, and they don’t have vascular problems.  I personally have two labraodoodles.  One is light with a salmon strip down his back and the other dog is black like the beer so we named him Guinness.

EC:  Can you give a shout out about your next books?

DB:  It will be an Amos Decker one, out next spring.  There will be a surprised guest from one of my other series that will play a prominent role.  The next Atlee Pine will be a continuation from this book where she continues the search for her sister and mother.  It will hopefully be out next November.