Three’s a charm…

9:20 PM 10 NOVEMBER 2018

A third novel featuring detective Amos Decker and the FBI team, of which he is a member, is on the up. After their recent success (see “The Last Mile”), Special Agent Bogart’s people are on the move to Washington DC, to bring their skills to bear on some criminal action in the capital. Decker does not welcome the disruption. But, when a man walking in front of him by the Hoover Building shoots an apparently random woman and then himself, these are not the kind of events Decker can shrug off. Cue a convoluted investigation with more twists and turns than an Olympic diver!


In common with the best thriller writers, Baldacci deftly maintains an almost breathless pace at times. However, the presence of familiar characters from the earlier novels in the trilogy and their deepening relationships with the key protagonist are also interesting.
Decker remains a fascinating anti-hero and something of an enigma. The value of his prodigious memory (legacy of a head injury sustained in his lone NFL appearance) is well understood by his colleagues, but increasingly they also grasp the significant cost to Decker’s social functioning. Despite their efforts, at times, Decker feels like a stranger in his own body, unable to revert to the personality that he was, nor resist dwelling on the devastating loss of his family (see “Memory Man”). Yet, his formidable physical and mental presence are used to good effect in this story, as governmental inter-agency pressures and international intrigues simmer, threatening to boil over into lethal destruction at every turn.


Though compelling, Decker’s insatiable, naive drive to find ‘the truth’ seems bound to be manipulated and in this book Alex Jamison (former journalist) is more clearly seen as his self-appointed protector. Yet, the reader knows Decker is incapable of reciprocating her devotion, at least in any romantic sense.


Whilst changing the team’s location has arguably provided the author with a broader canvas, the plot-line in “The Fix” is a more traditional ‘whodunit’ and consequently felt ‘narrower’ and more predictable than the preceding novels. That said, Baldacci has left plenty of scope to develop the character of Amos Decker and his colleagues further. There are also enough loose ends remaining should the author be minded to move beyond the trilogy, which seems the preferred ‘boxset’ of choice currently. All three books weigh in at around six hundred pages, but for me, this final(?) installment is possibly the lightest of the bunch. Worth a read, but lacking the novelty and impact of books one and two.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Intriguing Sequel

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’…

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Forget Me Not…

5:15 PM 14 OCTOBER 2018

I was recently introduced to the work of David Baldacci by my Dad, who has enthusiastically devoured the Amos Decker thrillers in quick succession. This first in the series introduces the gruff and unlikely hero – ex NFL player and police detective, decimated and made destitute by the collapse of his private world some fifteen months before. However, what makes the rather tragic character of Decker so unusual and compelling is his experience of ‘hyperthymesia’ (excessive autobiographical memory/perfect recall). On the one hand, it does seem like a convenient way of giving ‘superpower’ to a detective, but the narrative actually describes the burden equally as a curse, for the man unable to erase some haunting memories. Still suffering under the weight of his loss, Decker is barely functioning, but is drawn back into his painful past when a man hands himself in and confesses to the murder of Decker’s family. And so the blue touch paper is lit on an explosive tale of murder, intrigue and a battle of wits to prevent further killing and seek justice for the growing number of victims.


Despite being a brilliant detective, Amos Decker is an emotional shell, no longer able to process as he once did. Yet, as well as a triumph of complex plotting, the author’s skill lies in his ability to make the reader care about how it turns out for the flawed main character. Former police partner, pushy journo, FBI special agent are all excellent supporting characters and each realizes Decker is the key to the case and prop him up along the way, recognizing his vulnerability.

It is a masterful example of the genre. Perhaps, the fact that, like my Dad, the final page had me seeking out the title of the sequel is testament to this book’s impact as a ‘page-turner’. Quite dark, the rattling pace is maintained, despite the convoluted twists and turns and in an interesting symmetry the criminals are as unusual as the pursuer. Well worth a read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.