The Fix – David Baldacci

This is the third in the series featuring Amos Decker, the man whose football injury changed his character, and gave him perfect recall. This time around he has to use his skills and investigative talents to solve the mystery of why Walter Dabney, a family man with an impeccable background, apparently commited a heinous crime and then suicide.

Of the three, this is the weakest. The plot is up to scratch. However, at some points of the narrative I felt there were absences – of empathy and interest – that somewhat reduced the tension. The action was not as intense as in the previous books, and the dialogue more extensive, presumably intended to develop the character. Unfortunately, it was boring in places before getting back on track.

Decker remains a fascinating character and so the combination of him and a truly puzzling plot made it, overall, a good read. But I may wait for reviews of the next one before buying it.

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The Last Mile – David Baldacci

the-last-mile
I devoured this, the second in the Amos Decker series, after finishing the first – Memory Man – and thoroughly enjoying it. (My review is here.) The glory that is Amazon brought this book to my Kindle in a flash, and in a flash I had read it. Yes, it was a hasty purchase, but not one I regret.

OK, here’s the story.

Amos Decker is a former football player and policeman, who has – by dint on an injury on his single play in the NFL – hyperthymesia: he remembers everything. He also has synesthesia (he hears colors), and his personality is somewhat antisocial and distant. But he burns with a desire to do good.

Decker has been recruited to be part of a multi discipline FBI team to look at cold cases. He persuades the team to take on the case of Melvin Mars, a man (once a promising college football player) convicted of murdering his parents and sentenced to death. At the very last minute, Mars is reprieved, and this sets off a deadly chain of events as the original murders are investigated, and the truth slowly surfaces.

Baldacci’s talent is to construct a complicated plot, and unravel it slowly. Each part of the plot – the underlying story – is logical, and consistent. So, the reader starts off from one perspective with imperfect knowledge, and Baldacci takes the reader on a journey to eventually see the whole picture, and a very different perspective.

In some of Baldacci’s novels, I have found the plot beyond belief. Here, there’s one element of the plot that gets close to it, but does not cross the line, so at the end the whole piece does stand up well.

The Decker and Mars characters are done well, but the rest are mostly cardboard props. The setting is OK, but nothing outstanding. Instead, it’s the plot, the pacing, the action, the story-telling, and the wonderful page turning intensity of much of the book that made this such a pleasure. In short, wonderful entertainment.

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Memory Man – David Baldacci

memory-man

Amos Decker fought his way into the NFL, only to be invalided out on his first play. The crunching tackle he took resulted in him dying on the field twice, before the crash team stabilized him, and he began the long, long road to recovery. But it was not a recovery to his old self, for that disappeared forever. He was diagnosed as having hyperthymesia (he remembers everything that happens in his life) and synesthesia (he hears colors). In addition, in moments of stress, he sees numbers. As if that lot were not bad enough, his personality altered so that he has become a savant, dealing directly in what he sees and feels, and wholly uninterested and unable to engage in small talk, or the niceties of human interaction.

He decides to become a policeman (with his memory, the exams are no barrier) and is doing well on that path, when tragedy strikes. On returning from a stakeout, he finds his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law brutally murdered. He tries to commit suicide, but cannot. Instead, his life spirals out of control, and he ends up homeless and on the streets.

He makes a partial recovery, gets work as a private investigator, and struggles on. One day, his former police partner comes to tell him that they have arrested someone for the murder of his family. From this point on, Decker is drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse, as the body count rises, and it’s a race to stop the killings.

For me, this is the best Baldacci I have read in a while, and that’s primarily because of Decker. The central character is interesting, intriguing, well drawn, and entertaining. The story line helps, as it is a good, twisty plot, with a finely paced rendition that keeps you turning the page. The supporting characters are a bit on the thin side, but to compensate, the backdrop – small town America – is pretty good.

The finale is satisfying, tying up the loose ends, and setting the scene for more adventures.

It’s good news for the supporting characters that they seem set to return – and presumably be better developed – in the follow ups. It will be interesting to see how Baldacci maintains the high standard set here, because I am not convinced that Decker’s character on his own will be enough. However, I’m sure the author knows what he is doing, and has a few tricks and treats up his writing sleeves.

Meantime, this one is highly recommended.

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