If the mark of a good author is when he delivers characters that are well defined giving you enough information of how they operate and why they operate that way while at the same time maintaining a little intrigue so that you want to know more in forthcoming books, then Baldacci hits a home run with John Puller. A former Iraq and Afghanistan veteran with enough battle scars to be able to pull rank and earn respect, Puller decides to let go of a possible high growth career to become an investigator with CID, the Central Investigation Division of the Armed Forces. And of course given that he is the hero of the book, he is the best at his job so much so that when a high ranking official of the Intelligence Agency is brutally murdered along with his wife and children in a remote coal mining town in rural US; Puller is sent in to investigate as a single-man team. He teams up with Samantha Cole, the deputy sheriff of the town and you can feel the tense chemistry building up between the two as the book progresses. Towards the end you feel like telling Baldacci to just get them a room to dissipate some of the chemistry.
Baldacci's Zero Day keeps you occupied with its small town connections where everyone knows everyone else and is connnected to one another in some way. The body count in the investigation slowly starts building up as the investigation proceeds. Baldacci does a great job of keeping you interested and on your toes as he introduces various possible solutions to the multi-murder mystery. He feeds us with snippets to make us think that this could be the angle but this also sometimes gets frustrating as a reader. The book really only takes off about three-fourths in post which it is difficult to put down. There is always that thought in your mind that the murder mystery is not simple as it looks because the main victim was a high ranking intelligence official and Baldacci makes sure that you don't forget that. He slowly builds the tension there with clues slipped in from various characters across the way. The end is extremely interesting to say the least.
Baldacci's Zero Day is not as much a fast action thriller as it is a slow descriptive murder mystery that becomes and action thriller towards the end. If you like long winded descriptions of what is happening and what the characters are thinking and if you like the intrigue that various characters bring in, then Zero Day will keep you engrossed. Personally I liked Puller with his strong past, his dysfunctinal family of a war hero and respected father but a convicted for treason brother, his acceptance of his limitations, his peace with his war dreams that he uses to his benefit and his confidence with himself. Baldacci has also given Puller a human touch with his feelings for Samantha Cole.
I didn't quite take to the ending and the final solution to the mystery. I thought it was too far fetched and not well thought out. But it did keep me engrossed and this is one of the fastest books that I have read.
I would rate it 3/5 and advice you to read it if you want some light reading where you don't need to tax your brains too much.