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Brash but likable hero returns

Puller takes on human trafficking

By Matthew J. Meyer

For The Free Lance–Star

“THE Forgotten” by David Baldacci  is the latest release by the author famous for his Camel Club series.

This modern criminal conspiracy thriller is the second in his latest series featuring Army Special Agent John Puller, a tough operator with a cool head and the sharp eye of a skilled investigator.

Using his formidable  storytelling skills, Baldacci begins this tale with a vignette about smugglers trafficking in human beings that serves as the underlying theme of this book.  He portrays the ruthless savagery and cunning of these international criminals who make it their business to acquire unfortunates—men and women—from their homelands to sell into  slavery.

But his story is focused on the U.S. businessmen who enable this despicable practice.  Not long after arriving in Paradise, Fla., John Puller knows something is terribly wrong. He’s there to respond to a letter from his Aunt Betsy about mysterious happenings at night, and  is shocked to find that she is dead. Apparently she sustained some kind of accident and  drowned in her backyard fountain.

But Puller is skeptical that his capable and clever aunt should meet an end like this, and he grows more suspicious as his trained investigator’s mind begins to sort the puzzle pieces.

His troubles mount when police harass him instead of providing helpful information—his first indication that Paradise is not what it seems. The question is, what did Aunt Betsy find out that led someone to commit murder?

As Puller digs deeper, he uncovers multiple layers of corruption in the town. But it is not until he encounters Peter J. Lampert, the richest man in Paradise, in fact on all of Florida’s Emerald Coast, that he finds its true heart of darkness. But he still can’t connect the dots to his aunt’s death.

Unbeknown  to Puller, two other individuals, each with separate reasons, are also pursuing Lampert, to bring him down.  Eventually the three converge, unify their efforts and discover what Aunt Betsy saw that led to her writing that letter to Puller and thus provoking her death.  But there is treachery in their midst that could prove disastrous.

Uncovering the reason for death and suffering in Paradise will draw upon all of John Puller’s formidable abilities.

Baldacci has created another vivid tale that will keep your attention to the last page.

Matthew J. Meyer is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania County.

THE FORGOTTEN

By David Baldacci

(Grand Central, $27.99,  432  pp.)

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