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64 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A GOOD MYSTERY AND A GOOD ACTION NOVEL --11/23/63 REVISITED
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...
Published 20 months ago by David Keymer

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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing "What If" For Swagger Fans
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...
Published 19 months ago by TMStyles


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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing "What If" For Swagger Fans, December 25, 2012
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This review is from: The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (Hardcover)
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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. Suffice it to say, Swagger seeks answers to several unanswered questions regarding JFK's death. Why was an incompetant like Oswald there in the first place and why didn't he fire at the best possible angle? Why did the third bullet "explode" when the first two didn't? And why did Oswald risk returning to his apartment to get his handgun when he could have brought it with him in the first place?

Hunter claims to have not altered any of the accepted facts and truths of the Warren Commission and other sanctioned studies of the assassination. Instead, he builds a complex conspiracy theory around these accepted facts by reinterpreting them in light of new motivations within an almost perfect grand assassination scheme. The resulting theory is as plausible as any other nonsanctioned theory out there which always require a certain modicum of suspension of disbelief by readers.

The problems with "The Third Bullet" deal with a historical event we all know about, an event that has been well vetted over the past 49 years. It is indeed a monumental task to build a tight plot by imagining fictional motives and purposes and conversations interwoven with accepted historical fact. Secondly, Hunter introduces a second narrator, the evil plotmaster behind the assassination, who chronicles his actions and motives while recreating the step-by-step events in November of 1963 to counterbalance each success by Bob Lee in current time. This use of two narratives is sometimes jarring in using different "voices" in moving back and forth between 1963 and 2012. Lastly, "The Third Bullet" is ponderously slow in places with agonizing failures and minute successes by Swagger's investigation intermingled with overly extensive decriptions of everything Oswald and his handlers did prior to the assassination.

"The Third Bullet" has some intriguing "what if" ideas that are posited in Hunter's conspiracy theory anchored by ballistics questions. Swagger is his usual laconic country boy who is much sharper and analytical than anyone gives him credit for and he is still a deadly foe to ever anger or point a gun at. If readers can get beyond the heavy topic of reliving a tragedy involving Lee Harvey Oswald, Officer Tippet, alternative shooters, the grassy knoll, mystery bullets, etc., "The Third Bullet" has some redeeming merit--especially for Swagger aficionados. It is a mixed bag especially for long time fans like me who wish we could have more of the original Bob Lee Swagger; indeed, perhaps, Hunter could bring him back in recreations of earlier adventures in much the way he has presented tales of Earl Swagger.
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64 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A GOOD MYSTERY AND A GOOD ACTION NOVEL --11/23/63 REVISITED, November 29, 2012
This review is from: The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (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. But violence finds him anyways. A woman accosts him, gets into his skin. He agrees to talk to her. She tells him a tale of her dead husband, asks Bob Lee to check on whether he was assassinated rather than just killed in a random hit and run. Her husband wrote books. His next one was supposed to be on the Kennedy assassination. And thus starts one of the most thorough, well researched and ingenious reexaminations of the tragic events of November 23, 1963, that one could have imagined. Only this time, instead of a conspiracy nut, it's Bob Lee who's investigating, and nobody knows guns like Bob Lee does. The question that puzzles Bob Lee surfaces early. The first two bullets fired at the Kennedy vehicle remained intact upon impact. Why then, did the third bullet explode?

The working out of that and other questions is careful and methodical, just like Bob Lee always is. Violence -extreme violence--intrudes en route, and Bob Lee has to handle it. The result is a thoroughly satisfying novel of action and deduction that leads to a startling conclusion. Is Bob Lee's conclusion right? I don't know. But it's certainly convincing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! Fascinating! It'll make you wonder..., February 9, 2013
This review is from: The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (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..."

~operabruin
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31 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A really boring Swagger novel, but an interesting JFK novel, January 14, 2013
By 
Bill Garrison (Oklahoma City, OK USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (Hardcover)
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THE THIRD BULLET, by Stephen Hunter, is an at times fascinating look at an alternate theory of the JFK assassination, but as a Bob Lee Swagger book, it is really boring.

The novel starts off strong. Swagger is hooked in by the widow of a writer who started investigating a piece of evidence found in the Dal Tex building in the 1970s. The Dal Tex building was right next to the Texas Book Depository. The evidence would only mean something to someone like Swagger. Swagger calls in FBI agent Nick Memphis to help and Swagger begins an investigation that takes him to Dallas, then to Russia and the trail of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Swagger novels are known for violence, guns, snipers, and a lot of action. This novel has none, and when, after about 200 pages, it switches from following Swagger to another character from the 1960s, the novel ceases to be a Swagger novel, and becomes a JFK conspiracy novel.

I find the JFK assassination and all the conspiracies behind it to be incredibly fascinating. But, if you don't, then the long plodding final two thirds of this novel will bore you to tears. Swagger, still as sharp as can be, is old, and tired, and doesn't do much fighting in this novel. If the JFK assassination doesn't interest you, then skip this Swagger novel. 11/22/63 by Stephen King and Target Lancer by Max Allan Collins are two other recent JFK works of fiction you might enjoy if you liked this novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If the JFK Assassination Intrigues You, December 28, 2012
This review is from: The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (Hardcover)
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The promise of Stephen Hunter's writing, Bob Lee Swagger, and an alternate explanation of the JFK assassination was 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually the fourth bullet, but who's counting.., July 1, 2013
This review is from: The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (Hardcover)
This was a good book - not a great book but far better than some Dan Brown Easter-egg hunt. Hunter did a nice job developing his Oswald and that's kind of how I envision him; a surly half-bright narcissist who's ultimately too lazy to be anything more than a CO2 mill. Hunter's research was pretty thorough and he crafts the technical parts of the conspiracy nicely. I liked the modifying of the bullet to make it frangible (although I doubt if it would have disintegrated so completely that some fragment of that tough copper cladding wouldn't have turned up bearing 'unique' grooves - but I'm just being a spoil-sport here. It was an ingenious idea)

Overall it is almost plausible and once you remind yourself that he's writing a novel, you can overlook the minor "ummm, yeah, that couldn't happen" elements. (If you aren't interested technical discussions of guns and ballistics or the Kennedy assassination, you might find it tedious, though). It's pretty apparent that he thinks that the majority of the Conspiracy Crowd are fools and takes a particular glee in wrecking their pet theories.

BLS does more ruminating than shooting in this book, but since he is portrayed as being 65 or so, that is a realistic touch. The weakest part of the book is that old Sherlock Lee Swagger just gets more amazingly prescient and able to divine exactly where and when he's going to get ambushed. The story device where he allows himself to get driven to the top of the hill where he has a pre-positioned cache of arms is starting to wear thin now - as is his getting repeatedly shot in his bionic hip. I'd be happy to see Hunter move in a new direction and leave Swagger to rock away his golden years on the porch dreaming up exotic new coyote loads.

I hope Hunter isn't used up and doesn't start just recycling the `bad contractors / not-so-helpless patsy theme. That would be a shame. Tom Clancy was able to pull off a nice string of books that were unique enough that you weren't thinking "hey, didn't I see this in..." (before he started renting his name like a hot-wings franchise to lesser lights in that genre, anyway).

Hopefully SH can give us something different; I've still got more money to fork over to him if he can keep me interested...

P.S. I wonder why he kept calling Jim Hosty `Hotsy' though - that was odd. and the limo was dark blue, and it didn't have a window between the front seat and the passengers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what a great story!!!, June 29, 2013
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I was a little skeptical when I got this book, I'm not much for conspiracy theories. I have to say I was hooked right from the start. Great writing and what an interesting read. I recommend to everyone interested in a different and realistic perspective!
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24 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bob Lee in dreamland, March 13, 2013
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This review is from: The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (Hardcover)
In every book in the Bob Lee Swagger series there has been an element of believability about old Bob Lee's adventures, even when he ditched his trusty rifle and became a sword fighting samurai.

But on this outing Hunter's tale slips its mooring and drifts somewhere up into a galaxy far, far away where the atmosphere contorts logic.

Hunter's exploration of the facts and theories surrounding the JFK assassination and his guesses are as good as anyone's. If you aren't familiar with the millions of pages devoted to the subject he saves you a lot of time by touching on many of the various claims and conspiracies. He even weaves real people such as CIA bigwig Cord Meyer and the mysterious murder of his wife into the tale.

It is when he comes back to the main plot that you realize Hunter is not even trying. Or maybe he wrote it on April Fool's day.

Bob Lee makes no secret of his identity and, as the plot shows, everyone in the world knows how to find him merely by going to Idaho and sitting in his favorite coffee shop. But when Bob decides to don a secret identity the FBI--for no reason except that Hunter invents it--creates the new identity within the witness protection program. Except the FBI doesn't do it, Nick Memphis, now an outcast in the department and put out to pasture in Dallas does it all on his own.

Nick doctors official records, investigates law abiding citizens, uses FBI agents in surveillance of anyone Bob decides he wants shadowed, covers up the murders of people Bob kills, and calls out large numbers of agents in other cities to protect Bob anytime Bob tells him to. And keeps it secret from his boss and the rest of the FBI.

Bob Lee goes to a foreign country on a fake passport using his fake name, kills a lot of people--for no reason and to no point as Bob Lee admits--then just walks to the US Embassy, tells them he needs to fly out on the state department plane and go check with Nick if they have any questions. And, since we all know State Department embassies anywhere in the world take orders from disgraced FBI agents in the Dallas field office, they say, "sure, no problem. Just hop on our private jet and don't worry about all the murders. We'll fly you back to the USA and that will be fine with the Secretary of State. Heck, we fly murderers home all the time with no questions asked."

Even worse, Bob Lee, as the book--and the promotion for the book-- and Bob himself is careful to point out, has no evidence. Nothing that any court of law, or any law enforcement official would accept or even bother with. And yet the criminal mastermind immediately starts killing people to prevent Bob Lee from coming forward and alerting the public that he has zero evidence.

And this is no ordinary mastermind. This is a Master Criminal so smart he engineered the assassination by using his position in an intelligence agency, then became a billionaire because he is so brilliant that the nation that was his deadly enemy and the deadly enemy of his intelligence agency welcomed him to their agency, conferred citizenship on him, made him one of the most powerful men in their country and made him a billionaire on top of everything else.

And yet he is so stupid that even though there is zero evidence against him and he could never be convicted in a billion years, he starts killing people. You heard that right--Mr. Master Criminal puts himself at risk by killing a bunch of people in order to keep Bob Lee from revealing the fact there is zero evidence that Mr. MC had anything to do with the assassination.

Well it gets worse and worse and finally Hunter just gets tired of a plot that is going nowhere, so he says what the hell and drops the plot and lets Bob Lee kill some more people--even though old Bob is using a weapon that is 90 years out of date and the bad guys are using modern weapons and have a helicopter and radios and who knows what all--because somehow, magically, even though they are highly trained professionals, they all forget to hide behind rocks and stand up just as Bob looks their way so that he has an open shot at them, and he says, "well that's enough killing for now I reckon."

And that's that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading!, July 9, 2013
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This story is so plausible that it is scary to read and consider the ramifications. The only thing that convinces me this is not based on factual research and some hidden cache of information is that Stephen Hunter didn’t come to some incredible “accident” before this story became public. This was just excellent.

Oh, the sci-fi version of what happened made a lot of sense too if you assume there will be time travel in the future.

I must have read too many of Hunter's works because I figured out who the bad guy was fairly early in the story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most logical explanation for the tragedy yet put forth., April 19, 2013
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This review is from: The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (Hardcover)
Folks, this is probably how it actually went down. This is the most logical, reasonable, most techically probable explanation of the
entire event. This is one everyone who was alive when the assasination happened should read. This is an excellent book, and hard to put down once started. I loved it.

Hal
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The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel
The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel by Stephen Hunter (Hardcover - January 15, 2013)
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