Dual timeline novels are tricky to pull off. Believe me, I know. However, if someone is qualified for the job, it's the best-selling author and creator of the popular Bob Lee Swagger series, Stephen Hunter.
Hunter takes us back to the 1930s to tell the story of Bobby Lee's grandfather, Charles Swagger, a veteran of World War I and an Arkansas small-town sheriff. We learn through Charles how Bobby Lee earned his affinity for marksmanship, but more specifically, what it means to be quick a draw, or I should say the first to draw, because as his grandfather Charles demonstrates, if you're not first, you end up dead.
Hunter has woven a compelling mystery throughout a suspense-filled, action-packed thriller. In the present-day timeline, Bob Lee searches for clues that will shed light on his grandfather's days in the "Division," the early incarnation of the FBI. The mystery includes all the classic symbols, a map marked with an X, a mysterious gun, and a deep-state conspiracy to hide the truth.
And the best part is Hunter's incredible ability to bring to life characters that have defined the modern-day bank robber–names like John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and Pretty Boy Floyd. We learn what motivated them, how they hated law enforcement but respected the innocent, and how they saw themselves as invincible, wielding the deadliest weapon of the day – The Tommy Gun.
Hunter brings the past to life as we learn the legacy of Bob Lee's grandfather and his role in defining the term 'G-Man' and bringing men to justice while struggling to deal with his death wish.
"You're too brave and honorable to ever commit suicide, so the pain just lingers. So, you are attracted to behaviors where you could easily get killed. You want God to kill you. You want him to punish you, so you give him chance after chance after chance, starting with the war. Put me out of my misery, you're saying to him. All those bullets missed, you just want one of them to hit and end the whole thing."