New agent in­tro­duced

Hastings Leader - - News -

Long Road to Mercy By David Bal­dacci, Grand Cen­tral Pub­lish­ers, $35 .. .. .. .. ..

David Bal­dacci in­tro­duces a new char­ac­ter in Long Road to Mercy. Her name is Atlee Pine and she’s an FBI agent es­cap­ing her past, and to­tally fo­cused in the now of catch­ing a bru­tal killer. The name Mercy in the ti­tle refers to Atlee’s twin sis­ter who was snatched by an in­truder when they were just 6 years old. Agent Pine has never for­got­ten the horror of that night and longs to find out what hap­pened to Mercy. Atlee is posted to a re­mote area in the western United States. She’s called out to the Grand Canyon af­ter a man goes miss­ing and his mule is found dead with strange carv­ings on its body. Piec­ing to­gether the dis­parate clues, Atlee’s en­cy­clopaedic brain works its way to­wards iden­ti­fy­ing the se­crets that are at­tached to the mystery.

Atlee Pine is an in­ter­est­ing new char­ac­ter who Bal­dacci does a great job of de­vel­op­ing against a much big­ger mystery than is first ap­par­ent. And its par for the course for David Bal­dacci to de­liver a rip­ping yarn in the process. — Tony Nielsen

It’s a Satur­day af­ter­noon in Christchurch, Septem­ber 1956. Peo­ple are stream­ing down Stevens St to go into Lan­caster Park. Most are men, dressed in long gabar­dine coats and felt trilby hats. Can­ter­bury hold the Ran­furly Shield, and to­day, for a big challenge from South­land, 37,000 have turned up to see them de­fend it.

‘We’d emerge out of the crowd,’ Can­ter­bury and All Black hooker Den­nis Young would re­mem­ber years later, ‘where there were peo­ple ask­ing, “How do you think you’ll go?” and wish­ing you good luck. They turned left into the stands and we’d turn right into the chang­ing shed.’

To­day, am­a­teur rugby in New Zealand feels as if it ex­isted in a dif­fer­ent universe. There were no play­ers’ academies, no gym work, no me­dia train­ing, cer­tainly no nutri­tion­ists. When Colin Meads be­came the All Black man­ager in the 1990s, he’d joke about the play­ers be­ing told they needed to eat pasta on game day. ‘When we played in the ’60s, Kel Tre­main and I would have a steak or a bit of cold mut­ton be­fore the game. Gee, imag­ine how good we could have been if we’d eaten prop­erly.’

Un­til they walked onto the field, the All Blacks were part of us; they were the pig farmer down the road in In­gle­wood, the bank clerk who stamped our sav­ings book in Haw­era and the freez­ing worker on the bus with us in Otahuhu. All they got as pay was glory. But the glory was real.

In our small, quiet coun­try, where television didn’t go na­tion­wide un­til 1965, and shops closed on Satur­day, rugby dom­i­nated our win­ter week­ends. Club rugby was so

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