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In David Baldacci's latest book, The Forgotten (PanMacmillan, Rs 350), the second to feature military criminal investigator John Puller, Baldacci draws his reader into a complex web of intrigue and domestic crime. Set in Florida, the book begins with the apparently accidental drowning of Puller's aunt at her Florida home who manages to send a missive to her nephew a few hours prior to her demise.
Despite its vague nature, the letter is filled with enough misgivings to get Puller's investigative antenna tingling and have him racing down to Paradise, Florida. Puller is then submerged into the Sunshine State with it's retiree and ultra-rich populations and the attendant industries that cater to the two demographics. The plot is peppered with interesting characters, which include members of the local law enforcement department, Hispanic children and a mysterious giant of indeterminate ancestry with a private, deadly agenda.
Puller, decorated war hero and former Ranger, is an archetypical Baldacci hero, a sociable loner rippling with muscles, highly intelligent, and with a large fund of ripostes for all occasions. The plot is as bracing as the Florida air, layered with multiple murders, nigh-intangible patterns and characters sketched in an economic but composite manner.
One to give Baldacci a run for the bestselling author mantel has always been the indomitable Jeffrey Archer. Before he became a disgraced peer and moved on to emotional issues like prison diaries and generational sagas, Archer wrote short stories with the ease of a man who knows what you want on lazy weekends, or on long flights back from a vacation. He gave you dry wit, thrill, some cricket and maybe, an odd bit of nostalgia; in other words, the male equivalent of chick lit.
A Quiver Full of Arrows; A Twist in the Tale and Twelve Red Herrings now appear together in The Collected Short Stories (Pan MacMillan, Rs 399). In all of them, the setting is always cosmopolitan, but the pool of protagonists remain largely unvaried — successful men (and very occasionally, women) — bankers, state heads, diplomats — or those at the bottom – gamblers, tricksters and bounders — out to prove a point.