Decker & Lancaster #1: Memory Man by David Baldacci (Macmillan)

Amos Decker’s life changed forever–twice.

The first time was on the gridiron. A big, towering athlete, he was the only person from his hometown of Burlington ever to go pro. But his career ended before it had a chance to begin. On his very first play, a violent helmet-to-helmet collision knocked him off the field for good, and left him with an improbable side effect–he can never forget anything.

The second time was at home nearly two decades later. Now a police detective, Decker returned from a stakeout one evening and entered a nightmare–his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law had been murdered.

His family destroyed, their killer’s identity as mysterious as the motive behind the crime, and unable to forget a single detail from that horrible night, Decker finds his world collapsing around him. He leaves the police force, loses his home, and winds up on the street, taking piecemeal jobs as a private investigator when he can.

But over a year later, a man turns himself in to the police and confesses to the murders. At the same time a horrific event nearly brings Burlington to its knees, and Decker is called back in to help with this investigation. Decker also seizes his chance to learn what really happened to his family that night. To uncover the stunning truth, he must use his remarkable gifts and confront the burdens that go along with them. He must endure the memories he would much rather forget. And he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

[Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Goodreads]

David Baldacci has always been an author whose work I have wanted to read more of but he keeps putting out too many novels for me to stay on top of. He’s of the same breed of the likes of James Patterson, John Grisham and Lee Child, thriller writers who churn out at least one new book each year and you always know what you’re going to be in store for, a fast paced, quick read that more often than not, will be at the very least entertaining. Whether it’s part of a long running twenty book series or a new one, like Memory Man, these authors will keep you hooked from page one to the end of the book for the most part. The author himself may be hit and miss for me and I have never found his books too brilliant, but having only read the first King & Maxwell book as well as the first Will Robie novel,  there’s always something more to explore and Memory Man, the start of a new series centred around new protagonist Amos Decker, is one of them.

Decker himself is an interesting character who didn’t originally start out life as a Private Investigator. He was in fact the only person to come from Burlington, his home town, to ever reach the level of professional football, however, with the very first play, a collision knocked him off the field for good and left him with an unlikely side effect, the ability to remember everything, which naturally, two decades later, has disastrous consequences when he returns from his day job as a Police Detective to find his wife and daughter murdered after a break-in. Winding up on the street after quitting his job, he’s now a P.I, and has been for a year. When he is pulled into a horrific murder at a school that brings his hometown to his knees, Decker is called into the investigation which may have terrifying ties to his wife’s death.

Baldacci’s characters are often pretty strong and easy to get behind. Decker is a well-crafted main character and you quickly find yourself wanting him to succeed, even if he is still cut from the same mould as your stereotypical lead men in thriller novels, however his unique ability allows a somewhat fresh take.

The plot is pretty fast moving as per normal and it even ranges into the creepier elements at times, creating a great, plot twisting mystery that deals a plot that seems ripped straight out of the headlines, a school shooting. The mystery is successfully presented and will really keep you guessing until the reveal, which is fairly satisfying and is wrapped up well allowing for the start of a series to come. Yes, some of the plot twists may be fairly unrealistic for a slightly grounded novel but if you can put that aside, Memory Man still remains a fairly engaging read that is pretty intense indeed.

Now onto the negatives. The characters themselves, the supporting cast, are totally generic and forgettable. You get a stereotypical obsessive reporter type character and a couple of generic sympathetic police officers. Only the villain is fairly developed, but everything else feels bland but that more often than not is the problem when the writer decides to focus entirely on one character as we don’t get any other perspective than Decker throughout the novel. They don’t really add anything to the book and you get the feeling that Decker would have been able to do pretty much everything that he did without their involvement, which is a shame, because Baldacci has proven that he can create powerful, compelling secondary characters in the previous novels that I’ve read.

So on the whole, Memory Man is a solid start to a new series from David Baldacci. It’s an addictive, engaging read that will keep you hooked from start to finish but at the same time, there are a few problems here and there. It’s not perfect. But am I going to read the next novel in the series? You bet I will.

VERDICT: 7.9/10

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