Saturday, 15 December 2012

Zero Day by David Baldacci


I’ve not read any David Baldacci books before, and I only started with this one because it sat at the top  of the UK charts with a bunch of good reviews and a 20p price tag – but I’m glad I picked it out, and I’m giving it four stars. It would be three and a half, but that isn’t possible.

Zero Day is the first in what I’m sure will be a series starring Jack Rea... sorry, not Jack Reacher, John Puller. Spot what Baldacci did there? Many other reviewers have drawn the comparison between Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Baldacci’s Puller, and while there are only seven basic plots in story-telling and some overlap is inevitable, I’d still have to say that Baldacci’s Reacher is unnecessarily close to Child’s Puller. If you see what I mean.

The story begins with John Puller being assigned to investigate the murder of an entire family. Puller is Army CID, and he’s given the job because the father was in Defence Intelligence. The investigation unwinds slowly, and the book really gets going at about three quarters of the way through when we learn the reason for the murder. It was done to cover up multiple wrong-doings, and part of that is a very nasty terrorist attack that Puller must prevent once he’s figured out who the bad guys are.

The book’s writing style is a curious mix of spare with a tendency to being long-winded. The set pieces are economically described – a little bit too economical for my liking, it’s a bit slow in the slow parts, and never really fires up in the action.

This is not gritty realism, this is a CSI-style procedural detective story, with thriller action in the end game – also very much like a Jack Reacher book. So if you’re one of those people for whom Child’s one-a-year output is not enough, then this is right up your street.

Despite my reservations about the comparisons, I enjoyed this one and thought it was just about worth the four stars. It stretched my suspension of disbelief too much to stand any chance of getting the fifth star, and while I was always engaged with the story, it never came close to rising up and sweeping me away.

It was a perfectly good nuts and bolts thriller with, for the most part, tab b very effectively fitted into slot b. If you’re looking for paroxysms of excitement or enlightenment, this isn’t where you’ll find it, but it’s a more than pleasant diversion for a winter evening.

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