It's always nice to sink your teeth into a Baldacci, particularly when he throws you a curveball by introducing a new character with a whole new set of skills. However, it's quite a shock to find something vaguely familiar about John Puller whose former MP days match up with Lee Child's Jack Reacher, and you begin to wonder what's coming next when he teams up with a small-town female sheriff to solve a series of grisly crimes (reminiscent of Reacher's latest plot - The Affair). Add in the fact that he loves his coffee by the gallon and gets to beat up on the town bully and wow! - the shades of déjà vu start to close in alarmingly!
For avid fans of Reacher the comparison offered by Puller is frankly off-putting and, to a degree, disappointing. But none of that should detract from what is a stonking great yarn in its own right. Nobody does insight into weaponry, forensics, clandestine services, and politics like Baldacci and in Zero Hour he lets it all hang out. The story rattles along at a fast rate, draws you into making some wrong assumptions, and has more than enough action for even the fiercest of adrenaline junkies. It builds to a climax as good as any you're likely to encounter, including a few twists that only the bravest of authors attempt these days.
If this is to be the start of a new Baldacci series featuring the superbly-honed investigative skills of John Puller - and there's no reason to doubt otherwise - then bring it on! Goodness knows there are a lot of stories out there just waiting for the Baldacci flair to keep Puller busy. Let's just hope that as he evolves, the character starts to distance himself from the Jack Reacher brand!