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Book Critique - Zero Day (John Puller Series #1)

For review of all books in the series, go here 

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: If you like police procedural dramas that involve military services, and you like to see people fight conspiracies, solve crimes, and save the humanity in their own way, then this is a very good series to begin with. 

Zero Day is the first book in the John Puller Series by David Baldacci in November of 2011. This first book tale Puller to the West Virginia state to solve a brutal murder of an entire family.

John Puller Jr. is a combat veteran and investigator with the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division (CID). His father, Lieutenant General "Fighting John" Puller Sr., was an Army fighting legend. While his brother, Robert Puller, is serving life sentence for treason. As part of his job as the Warrant Officer at the CID, Puller is tasked with various cases that surround with mystery, murder and conspiracies, involving the members of the military. His drive to find the truth sometimes lands him closer to losing his life, yet he continues and prevails.

Someone had murdered an entire family brutally in Drake, West Virginia, a coal county. John Puller Jr. is assigned to the case. He teams up with Sergeant Samantha "Sam" Cole from Drake's Law Enforcement, and a very headstrong one at that. Then bodies start to drop like flies. And the little coal mining town has more secrets hidden than the coal they are trying to mine, making Puller's job more complicated than ever.

A complex murder turns more twisted for Puller and Cole as they try to solve taking them to mining counties, environmental hazards, secret government facilities. Unlike his other books, Baldacci keeps the plot strictly to the core of the plot, rather than weaving a lot of conspiracies. Good thing he did not do it, since the straight plot itself was very convoluted. 

Baldacci also gives a lot of history and background in several scenes elongating the chapters. However, I am guessing he did so, since this is the first book in the series and he is setting a stage for the readers to land on for the next book. Some places it became little taxing though. 

One gets up close at how the mountains and forests and rivers are being destroyed in the name of progression and building economy. Although this book was written 9 years ago, I don’t think the amount of destruction has reduced at all. In fact, it has increased exponentially despite so much of social media and awareness.

As I had been reading the book, it felt like Baldacci created a John Puller who would come very close to Lee Child's Jack Reacher. The plot-line was certainly different, but cant help to notice several similarities both of them. 

I am huge fan of NCIS and its spin-off series' NCIS: New Orleans and NCIS: Los Angeles TV shows that air on the CBS American TV channel (some of my reviews of the show here.). Baldacci centers his plot with people from the US Army CID that has NCIS as one of the branches too. The entire book felt like I was watching an NCIS episode, although we know on TV they solve cases in 60 minutes while in real life or in books they take longer than that, way longer.

Baldacci has quite a few characters in the plot that poke and prod at the path that John Puller Jr. has taken in his military career, leaving a lot of inconsequential details lying around and opening several sub-plots. Naturally these would end up in future books, I suppose. And Baldacci left Puller character with more heartache, surprisingly for the very first book. 

A beginning that would definitely take the readers on a roller coaster ride through the world of military investigations, world security and in the end saving the human lives one way or the other.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Mailman Howard Reed converts his Ford Explorer into a mail truck by using some kind of contraption that looks like a car's fan belt; giving him ability to drive on the right side of the road like people in most Eastern countries. Baldacci also adds tidbits on why in England the driving had been on the right side of the road.

b. Baldacci squeezes in a lot of history in the plot: how the CID was formed originally; why one of the guns is named Weaver; detailed explanation of several equipment used in crime scene analysis; how did Mickey Mouse happened to be logo of USACIL; Army and Navy Club tidbits; difference between commissioned and warrant officers; how atom bombs were made and how they have evolved over the decades.

c. Roger Trent is married to Jean, Sam's sister, and has two kids - teenage girl Meghan, 11-yr old boy, Roger Jr.

d. General Julie Carson's role suddenly gets expanded towards the end of the book. I am guessing Baldacci will bring her back.

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Various people from West Virginia coal  county: mailman Howard Reed; Randy Cole, Samantha's brother; Deputy Dwayne; Landry Monroe, CSI tech for Drake PD; Deputy Lou; Sherriff Pat Lindemann;  Dr. Walter Kellerman, coroner; Louis, owner of Annie's Motel; Deputy Jenkins; Sandy Dreidel; Judy Johnson; George and Rhonda Dougett.

b. Possible conspirators: Roger Trent, owner of Trent Exploration, a coal mining company digging coal in Drake; Bill Strauss, COO of Trent Exploration, & his son Dickie; Frank, Dickie's friend.

c. Military personnel we come across along in the plot: Don White, the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) at CID headquarters in Quantico, Virginia; General Julie Carson, Reynolds' superior; Kristen Craig, an army crime lab person; DIA Agent Ryan Bolling; Lieutenant Barbara Strickland; DHS HS Agent Joe Mason; David Larrimore, a retired colonel.

d. Puller family is missing a person in the picture that John looks at of the Puller men. Who is the missing person?  He has a cat named AWOL.

e. Major Robert J. Puller, John's brother, who was part of United States Air Force, is serving a life sentence for treason at USDB, United States Disciplinary Barracks. He doesn’t want John to look into the case further. He does help John in the plot to catch the bad guys and gets a commendation, but his sentence is not reduced. 

f. Some of the books, places and media Baldacci mentions along the plot:

i. Sergeant Cole compares the left-over govt building to the ending in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

3. Grammatical / Character / Location / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:

a. On Pg. 156, Baldacci clearly shows that the mailman, Howard Reed, doesn’t recall if the package he was supposed to deliver to the Halversons, had Reynoldses name on it. But on Pg. 171, Baldacci quotes that Reed actually remembered that the package was going to the Reynoldses and C/O to Halversons. No where in between the pages it was revealed that Reed had confirmed it. So when did Reed confirm to Puller and Cole? 

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