Memory Man – David Baldacci


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.