BOOK CLUB: A Minute to Midnight

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By David Baldacci
ISBN 9 781 509 874460
Pan Macmillan (2019)

I really enjoy a good thriller, but with so many good writers working in the field, many start to blend together. Baldacci has avoided that fate for “A Minute to Midnight”, largely through the distinctive and empathetic lead character, and how she’s dealing with her past. Atlee Pine is an ongoing character, and I think most readers will want to find out what happens to her next. She’s certainly memorable.


Like many other fictional lawmen and women, Atlee Pine is motivated in part by a traumatic event in her past. When she was six, her twin sister was abducted, and Atlee assaulted and left for dead. Her sister was never found, her parents’ marriage shattered; ultimately Atlee’s entire life was shaped by that night. What sets Atlee apart is how central that story is to this novel. Often, a backstory is simply a mechanism to explain the intensity of a character’s commitment to solving crimes, or their problems forming relationships.

Here, however, Atlee actively sets out to solve the case, utilising the skills she’s developed as an extremely effective FBI agent. For me, this made the investigation more compelling and Atlee more empathetic. Despite it being a cold case, the personal connection to Atlee gives it a sense of genuine urgency and has readers feeling that the stakes are high.

Atlee also becomes involved in a murder investigation in the small town from which her sister was abducted. This is primarily accidental; she just happens to be there, and the sheriff isn’t too proud to seize on some expert help. This investigation gives the plot some of its momentum; in fact, this element builds to a breakneck pace until the novel is almost unputdownable. Unfortunately, for me at least, it was also the element that had the least credibility. I couldn’t quite get on board with the motivation around one murder in particular.

However, the emotional core of this thriller is Atlee’s search for her sister – or at least for some answers. Part way through the novel I started to have some thoughts about this, and was right about at least one major revelation. It appears I’ll have to wait for the next novel to find out about others. Although Atlee finds a lot of answers, she also finds some new questions. Most readers will absolutely empathise with Atlee’s emotions; her sense of loss, her anger at her parents, her desperate need for answers (even if they’re not the answers she might want).

This is the second Atlee Pine novel. I haven’t read the first, but didn’t feel that I was suffering from that. If there is recapping, it’s done so smoothly that it isn’t obvious – this novel reads perfectly well as a first meeting with Atlee. However, not everything is resolved and unless you’re prepared for that, you might feel a little cheated, in part because Baldacci gets readers to engage so strongly with Atlee and her problems.

This is an excellent, highly readable thriller. It uses enough tropes of the genre for thriller readers to feel comfortable, but doesn’t ever feel clichéd. Atlee and her attempt to use her FBI experience to resolve her personal mystery make the novel more memorable than average. I really enjoyed reading this and will be keeping an eye out for the next Atlee Pine novel.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading A Minute to Midnight thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia. You can read their comments below, or contribute to the discussion by leaving your own feedback.

9 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: A Minute to Midnight

  1. Thankyou Beautyandlace and panmacmillan for the opportunity to read ‘A Minute to Midnight’ by David Baldacci.
    This is the second book in the Atlee Pine series but it’s not necessary to read the first as this book was easy to follow.
    Atlee Pine is a special FBI agent and still on a quest to find her twin sister Mercy (hopefully living) and because of an incident where she rescues a young girl from abduction she finds herself told to take a vacation, a leave of absence.
    She decides with her assistant Carol Blum to go in her own words ‘back in time’. It’s to the small town, population 250 of Andersonville Georgia where 6 year old Atlee was badly injured and her sister Mercy abducted. The town, almost 30years on a civil war tourist attraction.
    Atlee, through no fault of her own has lost contact with her now divorced parents but she discovers people in the town who can remember the family.
    Her presence seems to start a run of murders and because of her experience she finds herself caught up in the investigations into them.
    She unlocks startling secrets from the past of which she had been totally unaware.
    This was a fast moving book with many interesting characters, the ending for me was unexpected, and now we have to wait for the next Atlee (Lee) book in the series which I’m sure will happen!

  2. Beauty & Lace Bookclub November 2019 :- A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci

    This is the second novel in the Special Agent Pine crime thriller series following up a fast paced first book involving global espionage. This novel focuses on a journey back to Atlee Pine’s former home to revisit the site where her twin sister was taken almost 30 years ago. Time hasn’t healed the wounds created on that fateful night with questions left unanswered and many more questions raised of why and how. In the meantime there is a spate of crime occurring in the small town which needs Atlee’s attention, but will she solve the mystery before more lives are taken?
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book on its own but especially after reading the previous novel in the series (Long Road to Mercy) the plot kept me guessing right to the end of who was orchestrating the murders while still leaving intriguing tidbits for the next in the series which I hope won’t be to far away!
    Thanks to Beauty & Lace, Pan Macmillan Australia and David Baldacci for the opportunity to read & review ‘A Minute to Midnight’ by David Baldacci.

  3. I was pleasantly surprised with A Minute To Midnight. While I love mystery thrillers, I hardly ever read crime novels.

    This is book two of a series, in which I’d already read the first. I loved it, and somehow loved this one even more!

    Its a twisty crime thriller that had me second guessing myself. I enjoyed the writing style, the amount of detail put in was perfect. It was an addictive read, it didnt take me long to finish it.

    I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

  4. Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Beauty and lace for my copy of A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci
    .Although this was the second in a series, I have not read the first one and still found it incredibly easy to follow. Right from the beginning I was hooked. It was a real page turner and I couldn”t put it down.
    Agent Pine returns to her hometown to try and solve the mystery of the disappearance of her twin sister 30 years prior. She discovered many untruths she had been told throughout her life and while in town more murders are committed which she joins in the hunt with local police for the killers.

    The characters in this book are easy to understand. The book flows nicely and has you on the edge of your seat. I loved it and strongly recommend to crime lovers and the like.

  5. Agent Pine is easy to like and just want good things to have happen to her. She returns to her old town to solve the mystery of her sister’s kidnapping when they were 5 and discovers much much more. This was an incredible book to read so thrilling and had me guessing wrong right through, very enjoyable and now I have to read book 1 although this is book 2 it’s very easy to follow what’s going on without having read book 1 in the series

  6. Thank you so much Pan McMillan and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read this book!!
    I was amazed at how much I loved A Minute To Midnight. Crime novels are becoming a clear favourite lately and this was no exception.

    This is book two of a series. Even though I had not read the first one it did not matter and now I need to read the first as I loved the second!! I hope there are more.

    There is nothing better than a book with lots of twists and turns to make you want to keep turning the pages. I finished this book very quickly as I wanted to find out what was happening next.

    I loved the character of Agent Pine and can not wait to read more with her in.

    Thank you David Baldacci for an excellent read.

  7. Not having read the first in the series I was worried this wouldn’t flow as well as it should .

    I was wrong . A page turner that will keep you engrossed from page 1 . Did those who like a good thriller and a strong female lead you will enjoy the way in which the author has penned the character from previous events that occurred .

    The story is written with enough twists n turns to engage the reader and to leave you waiting for the next book in the series . If your after the answers you’ll be disappointed lol but lots of intriguing information becomes about to whirl us into the next stage of this series

  8. As an established fan of David Baldacci’s books, I was pretty thrilled to get the opportunity to review A Minute To Midnight. It did not disappoint! This is the second in the Atlee Pine series, following an FBI agent in her very personal quest to uncover the family secrets that have shaped her life. As she heads to her childhood home to investigate, she not only discovers even more mysteries about her family but also ends up investigating a series of murders in the small town. Baldacci has beautiful pacing and reading his books is always enjoyable – A Minute To Midnight is a great addition to his catalogue and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys crime fiction and mysteries.

    Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to review A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci

  9. I chose this book to read not realising that it was the second book in a series.. However that didn’t stop me from enjoying it so much! I didn’t feel I was missing out not having read the first book.

    Atlee Pine has gone through a traumatic ordeal when she was a child – her twin sister was abducted and she was left for dead. Atlee became an FBI agent because of this event and has been looking for her sister for all of her adult life.

    She returns to her childhood town to find some answers and I thought that the book was only going to be focusing on her sister’s abduction. However, she finds herself in the middle of a serial killer’s killing spree. With the help of some of the interesting characters that live in the town, Atlee has to discover who the killer is before another person is killed. Plus she learns something about her past which will change her and how she viewed her family life.

    I really enjoyed this novel and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I’ve never read any of David Baldacci’s books and this story was a great introduction to his writing.

    Thank you Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to review A Minute to Midnight. It was well worth the read!

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