New agent introduced
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