I came to know about David Baldacci’s latest book, Memory Man, when I saw it was on the New York Times Top-10 Bestsellers list. Checked online for its synopsis and genre. Crime, thriller. Something definitely to my taste. Sure enough, I got a copy of the book and went about finishing it.
The book follows an ex-police detective from Burlington called Amos Decker who suffered a severe head collision trauma on his pro football (American Football for non-Americans) debut, an accident which gave him the ability to remember clearly everything he saw or read or experienced, giving the book its name. Furthermore, his wife, daughter and brother-in-law were killed brutally by an unknown person. This second incident led to his leaving the force and going on a self-destructive path until a year after the murders, a person surrenders before the police, confessing to killing Decker’s family. Simultaneously, there’s a shooting incident in a local school after which the police chief, Decker’s old boss, asks him to help them in their investigation into the school shooting as a “consultant”. Decker agrees.
The book has been written in a first person narrative structure from Decker’s point of view, which is great since we get a lot of insight into the way his mind functions and how he goes about using his abilities. Some of the things are a bit clichéd like Decker being an excellent detective before his resignation, him being able to do things others can’t, both physically and mentally and some of the characters being pretty clichéd too. I call them clichéd because that’s generally how we find protagonists in movies and books to be, a touch above the rest. That said, the book is a lot of fun and a genuine thriller which, despite some of the clichés, performs amazingly as a crime thriller novel, peeling layer after layer of surprises. There is no way the reader can solve the crimes before the protagonists, and that’s a credit to Mr. Baldacci.
There are elements of noir to the whole story. Decker as the classic hard-boiled detective has a flawed personality and is tormented, unable to forgive himself for not being able to catch his family’s killer, although the similarities end there. This book differs quite a lot from your usual Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy novel.
The action is largely set in Burlington and the main characters, apart from Decker himself, are his ex-partner in the force Mary Lancaster, FBI Special Agent Bogart and a local reporter Alex Jamison. It is also a story of revenge and redemption for Decker who had it all and lost before finding motivation again, just the kind of hero that makes us root for himself.
For both casual readers and longtime Baldacci fans, this is a superb book, one that is almost-unputdownable and an engrossing, fast-paced page-turner, if a little preposterous. Decker’s condition and subsequent abilities are just a bit too much on the wild side, but if the reader takes what Baldacci is serving at face value, he is in for quite a ride. The book grips you right from the first sentence and doesn’t let go till the end, exactly what you’d expect from a thriller novel. It is supposed to be the first in a series of books featuring Amos Decker. The synopsis feels like something straight out of a big-budget Hollywood thriller, something like Denzel Washington’s Deja Vu or Ben Affleck’s Paycheck, although not on the sci-fi side. I would look forward to any movie adaptation that might come, but in the meantime, the book is here to be savoured.
Rating : 4/5