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The Third Bullet (Bob Lee Swagger) Hardcover – January 15, 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 1,063 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* For nearly 50 years, the world has been obsessing over the assassination of JFK, from grassy knolls to magic bullets. Finally, though, there’s somebody on the case who likes to act more than talk: Bob Lee Swagger, former Vietnam sniper and the man you want on your side when it comes down to “straight killing time.” When the wife of a murdered thriller writer (with a bio very like Hunter’s own) asks Bob Lee to find her husband’s killer—and mentions that the writer was working on a book about the assassination (a book very like this one)—it’s no surprise that Swagger, who has no interest in who killed JFK, says no thanks. But then the widow tells him that an overcoat that her husband found in a building across the way from the Texas Book Depository had a peculiar stain on the back, as if a bicycle had run over it, and suddenly Bob Lee is very interested indeed. It takes nearly 500 pages before Hunter explains what it all means—with the narrative jumping between 1963 and the present—and while assassination fanatics will likely find all kinds of problems with the scenario he constructs (naturally, it hinges on ballistics, Bob Lee’s area of expertise), the rest of us will have no problem willingly suspending disbelief. Best of all, though, the novel isn’t just about what happened in Dallas 50 years ago; connected to the unraveling of the JFK story is a contemporary manhunt that takes Bob Lee first to Russia and then to the Connecticut countryside, where, finally, it’s straight killing time yet again. Who knows (or cares, really) if Hunter’s hypothesis is accurate, but, like Stephen King in 11/22/63 (2011), he has used the assassination to forge a terrific thriller. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Bob Lee Swagger wipes the floor with all the usual suspects connected to the death of JFK—now there’s a premise for the ages! Hunter does his subject proud, and the marketing campaign to support the launch will do the book just as proud. --Bill Ott


“The Swagger novel we've all been waiting for, and the Swagger novel Stephen Hunter was born to write . . . a magnificent thriller—and it might even be true.” (Lee Child #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Wanted Man and The Affair)

“Like an elite sniper, Stephen Hunter zeroes in on one of the most infamous shots ever fired and delivers a mind-bending thriller that answers the question ‘What if?’ in astonishingly plausible detail. The Third Bullet is his best Bob Lee Swagger thriller yet.” (Vince Flynn #1 New York Times bestselling author of Kill Shot)

“Former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger tackles the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories—the 1963 Kennedy assassination—in his latest adventure. . . . The author’s obsessive attention to the events of Nov. 22 yields a stunningly plausible theory that will have readers holding the book in one hand and Googling satellite photos of Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository with the other.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Hunter is extremely well-versed on guns and ballistics, and Swagger is nothing short of a legend. . . . it’ll be catnip to conspiracy-minded readers . . . The whole thing ends with a shootout in rural Connecticut that's so tense you'll burn your dinner rather than stop reading.” (Washington Post)

“Hunter’s action-packed new thriller, The Third Bullet . . . introduces a shockingly plausible alternative to the Lee Harvey Oswald-‘lone gunman’ explanation.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

“For nearly 50 years, the world has been obsessing over the assassination of JFK, from grassy knolls to magic bullets. Finally, though, there’s somebody on the case who likes to act more than talk: Bob Lee Swagger. . . . like Stephen King in 11/22/63, Hunter has used the assassination to forge a terrific thriller.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Bestseller Hunter’s solid eighth thriller featuring master sniper Bob Lee Swagger . . . plunges into the byzantine world of conspiracy theory. Hunter develops some new angles on the JFK assassination.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Some of Hunter’s best writing can be found here, along with new revelations about Swagger . . . . Then, of course, there is the investigation into Kennedy’s death on that fateful day in Dallas and its conclusions. Hunter raises some thought-provoking questions, and while the ‘who’ in the equation may still be in doubt, the answers to the ‘what’ and ‘how’ may be contained in this work, which is labeled as ‘fiction’ but could be much more.” (Bookreporter.com)

The Third Bullet is as riveting as it is ambitious. It's Stephen Hunter's best so far.” (Michael Connelly #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Drop and The Black Box)

“Stephen Hunter is the bullseye ace of the modern thriller, a cerebral mix of mystery, blood, brutality, treachery and suspense. The Third Bullet is Hunter at the absolute apex of his art. Come on—it's time to hunt!” (Stephen Coonts New York Times bestselling author of The Disciple)

“One of the hardest things for a writer to do is establish an identity, but there is no mistaking Stephen Hunter’s thrillers. They have a unique insight into what it takes to be a hero, combined with an unequaled lyrical, even poetic approach to the ballistics, tactics, and firearms of a gunfight. Hunter’s novels (what a great last name, given his themes) combine authenticity with fascinating, compelling, real-feeling characters, and in The Third Bullet, he even adds a further dimension, experimenting with structure while embedding literary quotations. To me, he's a model of what a thriller author can be.” (David Morrell New York Times bestselling author of First Blood)

“Only Stephen Hunter, with his brilliant knowledge of firearms, could have produced The Third Bullet and offered up a plausible explanation for one of our nation’s greatest mysteries. Despite the explosive subject matter, there is a jauntiness approaching pure joy in both the reading and the storytelling. This book will be huge.” (C.J. Box New York Times bestselling author of Force of Nature)

“Mr. Hunter, as adept at spinning a yarn as Swagger is at hitting a bull’s-eye, has had the freedom to not only theorize, but also to create characters and situations designed to answer most of the questions raised by skeptics over the years. This transparency permits his clever, smartly constructed, and well-researched plot to fit the known bits and pieces of what happened on that dark day in Dallas into a completed jigsaw puzzle that shows readers precisely why the crime was committed—and who did it. No big surprise: It’s not Lee Harvey Oswald. . . . Ever since Swagger’s first appearance in Point of Impact (1993), the author has provided his hero with antagonists worthy of the name. Meachum is a cut above the usual, not merely aristocratic, arrogant, powerful and resourceful, but unexpectedly humane, at times whimsical and sentimental and, for much of the book, surprisingly compassionate—especially when considering the enormity of his crime. In short, to modify the Tom Wolfe title, he is a villain in full.” (Dick Lochte New York Journal of Books)

“Stephen Hunter’s novel on the assassination of JFK is captivating, compelling, and thoroughly engrossing. The history has been painstakingly researched. The plot is classic Hunter: twisty, gritty, and fast-paced but tempered by the humanity of Bob Lee Swagger. In short, The Third Bullet is riveting storytelling for fans of fiction or non.” (Sandra Brown, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Low Pressure)

“Hunter is at the top of the list when it comes to modern thriller writers.” (Breitbart.com)

Product Details

  • Series: Bob Lee Swagger (Book 8)
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (January 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145164020X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451640205
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,063 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Hunter won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism as well as the 1998 American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Distinguished Writing in Criticism for his work as film critic at The Washington Post. He is the author of several bestselling novels, including Time to Hunt, Black Light, Point of Impact, and the New York Times bestsellers Havana, Pale Horse Coming, and Hot Springs. He lives in Baltimore.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
About twenty years ago, Stephen Hunter created a character who became iconic in the annals of action thrillers, Bob Lee Swagger. For me, as well as many others, his series of adventures, occasionally interspersed with tales of his father, Earl Swagger, resulted in must-read high octane thrillers. However, as Bob Lee aged in real time, Hunter found it difficult building new concepts and novels around an action hero who was entering the Medicare generation and his resulting efforts became thinner and spottier when compared to his earlier works. Simply put, Bob Lee was not as exciting as a "thinker" in his old age as he was as a "doer" in his youth.

"The Third Bullet" tries for the trifecta of presenting Swagger as a heavy thinker, mixed into a JFK assassination conspiracy, and still effective in a couple of gun battles. The results again are mixed. Hunter will always be a strong writer and wordsmith if also a little wordy and overly reliant on ballistics at times. Swagger is a well developed character with whom long time readers immediately feel at ease. He is a master at building the suspense leading to planned ambushes and mob "hits" that go awry when Bob Lee goes into action. But basically "The Third Bullet" is hampered by an aged action hero trapped in a "what if" plot that, while plausible, is not particularly stirring.

In a tale that has roots in Bob Lee's first adventure, "Point Of Impact", he responds to a stricken widow's plea for help in searching for the truth behind her journalist husband's death while nosing around in JFK assassination materials in Dallas. Seems Bob Lee is intrigued by a seemingly insignificant clue in his death that becomes a beacon for him retracing the dead journalist's tracks in Dallas.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the eighth (seventh?) novel by Hunter featuring master sniper Bob Lee Swagger and then ninth involving his family. I've reviewed two of these novels previously, I, Sniper (2009) for Amazon Vine and Dirty White Boys (1994) for a journal. The previous novel in this series, I, Sniper, was thin -fun, but less believable than the best of these novels had been. With this book, Hunter is back to form.

There is no one who writes about shooters with the authority and grace that Hunter displays in this engrossing series. His experience as a film critic (Pulitzer Prize winner) and novelist (five novels before the first Swagger novel) give an authority to his writing that moves the reader along. Like early Dick Francis or today's Lee Child, when a new Swagger book by Stephen Hunter comes along, I put down my other reading and dig right in and I don't pit the book down until I'm done with it.

About I, Sniper, the previous book in this series, I wrote: "The Swagger novels lean toward complicated back and forth chronology and complicated plot lines, all of which is resolved at the end in a burst of satisfying violence. Hunter's an economical writer, who neither glories in blood and carnage nor ignores describing it when moves his storyline along. Swagger is a fine character. He may not be book educated but he's whip smart in his own environment, as a hunter. He makes smart, even tricky, choices about shooting that in this book ... save his life against long odds. Although by nature a loner, even reclusive, he's also a born leader, with an instinctive feel for making those around trust him."

In this latest addition to the series, Swagger is sixty-six. He has a wife, daughters, a ranch and pretty much everything he needs. He doesn't need more violence.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The promise of Stephen Hunter's writing, Bob Lee Swagger, and an alternate explanation of the JFK assassination were too good to resist. I did mostly enjoy the book but I did not find Swagger nearly as interesting as I usually do. I could not stop questioning the motivations of the main characters. Why would these men a) risk losing everything to get to the bottom of this (Swagger), or b) be compelled to mastermind the assassination of a president (Meachum)? I kept thinking there would be great revelations for both men to explain their actions - especially when we get an interesting POV shift midway thru the book - but for me the explanations provided were ultimately unsatisfying and unconvincing. Certainly men have killed for less, but I expected stronger motives from Meachum and Swagger. This book simply wasn't dramatic enough for me. For people who are fascinated by the JFK assassination and like to mull over conspiracy theory possibilities, I do think this book will likely be enjoyable reading.
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Format: Hardcover
I love it when someone can re-tell a piece of history that we all have lived with for 50 years and leave you thinking "I wonder....." "What if....."

When was the last time you were drawn in completely and carried along by a story?.....Particularly an old story, endlessly investigated, theorized, wondered about, argued over, covered up, interfered with, etc., to the point where you come to not really believe anything is the truth. Stephen Hunter succeeds here with this book, and when it's all over, you get left to mull "Hmmm, I wonder..."

When this happens, the author has succeeded at his job and Hunter scores a big one, again, with this fascinating, incredible re-telling of the assassination that imprinted November 22, 1963 in all our minds the way 9/11 would mark us 38 years later. Well constructed, certainly researched and with enough "believability" to keep you glued to this story as Bob Lee Swagger struggles to figure it all out. "What really happened at Dealy Plaza that day, and who was behind it"....the very same thing we all are still asking ourselves after all these years. We probably may never really know, but will forever keep asking ourselves.

Stephen Hunter is a truly great storyteller. He and Dennis Lehane have entertained me a great many times with their exceptional works. Unless you just can't stand to hear or read another word about the JFK assassination, I highly recommend this book for your reading pleasure...it's fascinating, it's exciting, it's gonna make you go "I wonder..."

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