Memory Man by David Baldacci is a compelling novel. This new series is a fascinating characterization, featuring Detective Amos Decker who has unique abilities. Although Baldacci’s other series are gripping thrillers this new one is more powerful as readers immediately will root for Decker as he attempts to overcome his past demons.
Baldacci noted, “It is always a challenge to keep things fresh. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new, to challenge myself. I decided to write it as a series because I can develop the characters over time. I will have the main character working with the FBI so there will be endless possibilities. Because he is the anti-thesis character I normally write about, this series has energized me. I really like getting into his skin.”
The plot explains how a career ending football injury induced synesthesia, a neurological condition, which gave Decker symptoms that include remembering everything, counting in colors, and seeing time as pictures in his head. Unfortunately, the injury caused him to lack sympathy and empathy for everyone but his immediate family: his wife, and daughter. But the loves of his life were also taken away from him when they were brutally murdered. With grief encompassing him he hits rock bottom, living in a cardboard box in a parking lot. That is until the arrest of Sebastian Leopold who confesses to the slaughter of his family. At the same time, a horrific event, a mass killing, occurs at the local high school. To help solve the crimes, Decker is enlisted as a police paid consultant so they can utilize his ability to never forget anything. His startling discovery links the school killings with those of his family as it becomes evident the murders are personal. The plot becomes intense as Decker and the killer play mind games, attempting to manipulate one another to see which one will be left standing in the end.
Baldacci wrote about this neurological condition because he has “always been intrigued and have read lots of books about the functions of the mind, particularly after trauma. I read the book Born On A Blue Day and realized this neurological condition is a change in the brain wiring. What this is about is the sensory pathways in our head that deal with sight, smell, etc. Think of this as railroad lines that get crossed because of a hit in the head where all of a sudden numbers are colors. For example, Amos saw the murders of his family in blue. I like that the diagnosis of synesthesia gives him a different perspective. He has problems and issues. He cannot relate socially any more because of what happened to his mind after the football hit. Yet, what makes him such a good detective is, as he says in the book, “the bad guys take care of the big details, but it is the small ones that trip us up.” Many of us go through life and are oblivious to the small things around us, not Amos. He is extraordinary in select fields because of his recall ability.”
All the characters in the book are very well developed and create a frightening atmosphere. Decker is very sympathetic and is not the run of the mill police character. He is over-weight, gruff, a battered individual, and a loner. Yet, what makes him fascinating is how he can see the little clues in the crime scene investigation. These clues, a notebook, a ceiling tile, and the temperature in a freezer, become significant discoveries. He is complimented by his partner Mary Lancaster who has learned over the years how to handle Decker, FBI agent Ross Bogart, and investigative reporter Alexandra (Alex) Jamison who are learning what makes Decker tick. The killer is brilliantly menacing, cunning, dangerous, and intelligent.
David Baldacci has definitely hit a home run with Memory Man. This psychological thriller does not only get into the mind of the characters but gets into the mind of the readers. This is one of those stories that will stay with the reader even after the book is finished. A definite page-turner.