David Baldacci is a bestselling thriller writer and yet I had never read any of his books. When I saw that he had a new novel that does not feature an established character, I knew this was the perfect chance for me to sample his work so I picked up “Memory Man” hoping for an entertaining read.
Amos Decker is anything but ordinary. As a young man, he was the pride of Burlington when he became the first person from that town to ever play in the NFL. His pro football career, however, never got off the ground. On the first play of his career, Decker was injured and would never play the game again. The injury changed his brain forever and Decker was blessed, and cursed, with the ability to remember everything. Even the smallest detail of everyday life was filed away in his brain and at his disposal forever. Things that he wanted to forget, like the murder of his family almost 20 years after the injury, were locked away in his mind forever.
More than a year after his family’s murder, a man comes out of the blue and turns himself in for the crime. While he is incarcerated, there is a horrific shooting at the high school and Burlington is thrown into chaos. What ties do these crimes have to Decker and what can he do to stop them? The clock is ticking and the body count mounting as Decker and his extraordinary mind race to find the killer and stop him in his tracks.
“Memory Man” gives us Amos Decker who is definitely a character with potential. The way in which his mind works in intriguing and opens avenues for future stories. (Note: I have seen the novel billed as a stand-alone and the first in a series and I am thinking that it will be a series based on the events of the book.) He has plenty of quirks that readers have seem to come to expect and who should have wide appeal. The supporting cast is adequate if not spectacular as they add to the story without Decker stumbling over them. There is some potential there as well. The story is full of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and does a good job of holding back some secrets until the very end. Overall, this is the recipe for a good thriller.
Unfortunately, the potential of the story and the characters is not realized in this novel although there is promise for future books. In the end, too much time was given to repetitively presenting Decker’s unique mind so that it became tedious over time. After hearing about it several times, I could not help but tune out a little bit when another couple pages were devoted to essentially restating that he was different. This was done over and over throughout the story and hurt the momentum of the novel. Also, many of the events of the novel seemed to be too contrived as if constructed for the soul purpose of throwing a curveball at Decker or to shock the reader rather than to tell a coherent and compelling story. I still enjoyed the story but it was overdone so that I really just wanted it to end rather than to just continue on with another contrived twist or “deus ex machina” moment. I have not read anything by Baldacci before and would try another of his books in the future but this novel just seemed to be too long and too focused on quirkiness than on storytelling for it to be much more than just an average thriller.
I would like to thank Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for this review copy. “Memory Man” is available now.