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The Third Bullet (Bob Lee Swagger) Mass Market Paperback – October 22, 2013
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"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."
"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."
"Hunter's action-packed new thriller, "The"Third Bullet" . . . introduces a shockingly plausible alternative to the Lee Harvey Oswald-'lone gunman' explanation."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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 "
""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 "
About the Author
Stephen Hunter has written eighteen novels. The retired chief film critic for The Washington Post, where he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism, he has also published two collections of film criticism and a nonfiction work, American Gunfight. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
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The tale is related as two stories, Swagger's detective efforts and the diary entries of the 1963 mastermind who engineered the hit on JFK. Hunter has crafted a well designed theory that is consistent with the official Warren report as well as interweaving odd, ancillary clues. Unfortunately, the detective work offers little in the way of good tradecraft and is more dependent on Swagger's insight and epiphanies. The actual gunfights are well rendered, but few and far between. The diary of the mastermind is largely the embellished rantings of an over the top narcissist with a flare for British dandiness, that puts a drag on plot development, slows the pace, and lengthens the story considerably.
There's a James Bond / Spectre quality where unbeknownst to Swagger, he has been in the mastermind's sights ever since beating him to the punch of securing a special Russian weapon back in the Vietnam era. Finally, the notion of a former CIA agent faking his own death and then winding up fantastically wealthy as a Russian oligarch and spending his vast fortune for 50 years of surveillance of JFK crackpots is a bit hard to swallow.
Author Stephen Hunter has clearly done his research on the subject, and nimbly navigates around the multitude of theories, books, and reports (most notably the Warren Commission findings). From a personal standpoint, I have to say that I have never been particularly fascinated by the JFK assassination. The TV movie of Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Kennedy" was pretty much enough for me. So that this book won my fascination is a testament to its narrative effectiveness. And the fact that Hunter could come up with a fresh take on the Kennedy assassination is a tribute to his creative genius.
As with the other Bob Lee Swagger novels, this one is part mystery, part action -- all mixed with a good dose of Swagger's easy-going, aw-shucks, but deadly earnest manner.
Being a firearm enthusiast, Hunter likes to bring a wealth of gun lore and knowledge into his stories. And where else to bring such expertise other than a novel about the Kennedy assassination??? His penchant might come across as excessive for some, but Hunter brings an air of total credibility and authenticity to his depictions of gun technology, handling, and use. He is to firearms what Tom Clancy was to high-tech weapons systems, Pat Cornwell to forensics, and Michael Crichton to medicine/science. As Hunter notes in the author's afterward, "There are some tweaks I purposely left out to keep non-gun culture people from slipping into a coma..." :-)
Given the epic 50-year scope of the story, the fascinating reworking of totally trampled ground, and some bold narrative choices made by the author, I have to score "The Third Bullet" as one of Hunter's better novels -- which means it's better than just "good," and even "good" Hunter fiction is better than most of the stuff out there. :-)
Hunter has alternating sections narrated by Bob Lee and Meachum, two men from wildly different backgrounds, and yet, Hunter gets the voices of the Arkansas Marine sniper and the Beltway CIA operative Yalie just right and entertainingly so.
I am not among those who believe in some giant conspiracy in the death of JFK, but I thoroughly enjoyed the what-if premise of this novel. Hunter works off a couple of "facts" and builds a compelling case for a fascinating conspiracy that has just enough "truth" in it to draw you in.
Hunter often apologizes for all of the gun trivia in his books, but I feel that it enhances the narrative - and sends me to the internet to research the guns and companies that he mentions - especially in this book where he often alludes to the history of various American and foreign gun manufacturers. Whether we like it or not, there are ways in which guns ARE the history of the world and command the attention of anyone who is seriously interested in the history of mankind - for good or for ill.