Plot summary (from the publisher): John Puller is a combat veteran and the best military investigator in the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. His father was an Army fighting legend, and his brother is serving a life sentence for treason in a federal military prison. Puller has an indomitable spirit and an unstoppable drive to find the truth.
Now, Puller is called out on a case in a remote, rural area in West Virginia coal country far from any military outpost. Someone has stumbled onto a brutal crime scene, a family slaughtered. The local homicide detective, a headstrong woman with personal demons of her own, joins forces with Puller in the investigation. As Puller digs through deception after deception, he realizes that absolutely nothing he’s seen in this small town, and no one in it, are what they seem. Facing a potential conspiracy that reaches far beyond the hills of West Virginia, he is one man on the hunt for justice against an overwhelming force.
Warning: Spoilers below!
- The first murder scene was very grisly and intriguing. I was pulled into the story almost immediately after the description of that crime scene.
- The pacing in this novel was mostly good. I can’t think of any truly boring stretches anywhere along the way.
- I didn’t mind that Baldacci had Sam die in the explosion. I think there are never enough “good guy” casualties in these kinds of books, so I appreciate the author’s choice here.
- I liked that Puller has a cat named AWOL. Keeping a pet shows a bit of a human side to him.
- Since Puller was CID, I was hoping for a much bigger Army angle to the plot. But most of the investigation proceeded in a very ordinary/civilian way. Puller could have been a member of any law enforcement agency for this case.
- Baldacci twice invoked a huge pet peeve of mine: when characters awkwardly call a sibling “Bro” or “Sis” just for the sake of exposition. This was done with Puller’s brother and Sam’s sister, and only done the first time the siblings were introduced. This bugs me so much!
- This isn’t the fault of the author, but is nevertheless something I personally didn’t like about the book. I’m tired of these “lone wolf” LEOs like Harry Bosch, Jack Reacher, etc. who don’t play nice with others and irk their superiors, but are left to their own devices because they get results. Puller would be so much better (and more believable) if he had a partner (a CID partner, not Sam).
- The case went way off the rails, IMO. As I said, it started out well enough, but when it devolved into some outlandish nuclear weapons plot with the “mastermind” being some 30-year Army vet who thought the military didn’t show him enough appreciation for his services…meh, I immediately lost any interest I might have had.
- So Puller’s going to be another perfect, kick-ass, smart, and irresistible-to-the-opposite-sex protagonist, huh? Great.
As far as thrillers go, Zero Day was an average book for the genre. The plot and characters were very familiar, which is not to Baldacci’s credit, but because Puller is CID, there’s the potential for some far more intriguing cases in the future. I’ll probably go ahead and read the next book in the series if/when I come across it, but I won’t go out of my way to get it. I give this one 3 stars out of 5.