1:41 PM 28 OCTOBER 2018
This sequel to the novel “Memory Man” continues the story of quirky detective Amos Decker, following his secondment to a newly-formed FBI unit. After the trauma of the original thriller, in which the main character sought to avenge the killing of his family, a move to Washington offers the prospect of a fresh start. Albeit his experience of hyperthymesia (excessive memory/perfect recall) guarantees Decker’s tragic memories can never fade, even with time, he realizes the need to move on. Still, though his prodigious ‘gift’ continues to enable Decker to process information and formulate hypotheses, in this volume the reader gets a clearer insight into the social consequences of Decker’s acquired brain injury. Whilst his cerebral functioning is clearly an asset, Decker has paid the price of an emotional deficit, which impedes his capacity to connect with colleagues and foster attachments. This makes teamwork a challenge, both for Decker, who is partially aware that he misses social cues and for those around him, who need to create bespoke relationships if they are to orchestrate their efforts. In that sense, Decker is very much an ‘island’ and it is key characters from the first book who seek to bridge his isolation, alongside a former football star on death row, who looks set to suffer the ultimate injustice.
Special Agent Ross Bogart has staked his reputation on making a unique FBI unit deliver results, but with only one other agent in the group, the task is at times like trying to herd cats, in particular trying to marshal Decker’s maverick tendencies. In his former police career Decker had a partner, but he now struggles with close relationships. Yet, journalist Alex Jamison knows that she has been offered a spot on the team because of her affinity with Decker. He responds to her and Jamison in turn is protective and encouraging towards Decker, reaching out rather than treating him as a curiosity.
Of course, making the ‘victim’ a college football star enabled the author to continue to trade on Decker’s brief NFL status and bind the pair of ex-gladiators together. However, the FBI involvement also allows the story to encompass additional resources and a national backdrop, which lends further tension to the story. Certainly Baldacci’s intricate plot-lines are skilfully meshed to create another fast-moving book, with some cleverly crafted antagonists. Indeed, the carefully calibrated depravity of the baddies has the reader willing the knights of justice to success. Corruption, racism, poverty, the abuse of power, these well-worn distortions of the human experience are all present in this book, the dragon to be faced if not slain, in an against-the-odds confrontation. But, for me, the enjoyment of the book is as much about the further development of the protagonist, as the reader gets to see more of the submerged iceberg that is Amos Decker and Baldacci has definitely adhered the old show biz adage, ‘leave them wanting more’…