Published: April 16, 2019
Detective Amos Decker discovers that a mistake he made as a rookie detective may have led to deadly consequences in the latest Memory Man thriller in David Baldacci’s #1 New York Times bestselling series.
Amos Decker and his FBI partner Alex Jamison are visiting his hometown of Burlington, Ohio, when he’s approached by an unfamiliar man. But he instantly recognizes the man’s name: Meryl Hawkins. He’s the first person Decker ever arrested for murder back when he was a young detective. Though a dozen years in prison have left Hawkins unrecognizably aged and terminally ill, one thing hasn’t changed: He maintains he never committed the murders. Could it be possible that Decker made a mistake all those years ago? As he starts digging into the old case, Decker finds a startling connection to a new crime that he may be able to prevent, if only he can put the pieces together quickly enough…
By now, readers, of this powerful series, know his story. Years back, the Hulk-sized Amos Decker suffered a bone-crushing helmet-to-helmet hit during his first play in the NFL, rendering him unable to forget anything, ever. Not only is every memory seared permanently into his brain—a medical condition known as hyperthymesia—for good, but the way Decker’s brain sees and processes colors has also been altered (synesthesia).
Abandoning the playing field for police work, Decker’s condition is both a gift and a curse. While he’s able to remember endless important details pertaining to various investigations, he can never forget the murders of his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law—the images of their dead bodies forever, painfully, preserved in his memory. Now, though, Decker is working cold cases with an elite FBI unit, a job that takes him all across the country in search of justice for those who deserve it most. This time, after narrowly escaping death in Pennsylvania following the events of last year’s The Fallen, Decker is back in his hometown of Burlington, Ohio.
After swearing to never go back, Decker, accompanied by his partner, Alex Jamison, makes his return to Burlington in order to visit the grave of his daughter, Molly, on what would have been her fourteenth birthday. While mourning his loss in the cemetery, a man approaches and introduces himself as Meryl Hawkins. The name does more than just ring a bell for Decker, causing the big guy’s jaw to drop ever so slightly. Years back, Decker put him away for murder—the first murder investigation of his career as a cop, in fact.
Though sentenced to life in prison with no parole, it turns out that Hawkins was recently released after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. From day one, he’s professed his innocence, and he’s sticking to it in his final hour. Moreover, he wants Amos to help him prove it once and for all. As it turns out, Decker’s former partner, Mary Lancaster, thinks there might be something to his claim. After all, why would a man on his deathbed go to such lengths to have his name cleared if he was, in fact, really guilty?
Still not sold on the idea that Hawkins might really be telling the truth, a skeptic Decker agrees to give the case another look—only to realize that the clear-cut investigation might be a little too clear-cut. Then comes another twist, when Meryl Hawkins is found dead with a bullet hole in his head. Figuring that the only reason to kill a dying man is to keep him quiet, Decker finally realizes he may have gotten it all wrong years ago and sets out to right his wrong, no matter the cost . . . even if it means digging up a dangerous old secret that someone’s willing to kill in order to keep it buried in the past.
Even just a few years back, Amos Decker was arguably Baldacci’s third-best protagionist, behind Will Robie and John Puller. Now, after several really strong books, you could make the case that he’s the author’s top hero, a dramatic turnaround for a character whose origin book, The Memory Man, wasn’t all that well received, but I loved it. As always, Baldacci’s writing is smooth, and his commitment to fleshing out his cast of characters continues to pay off in this one. The story is solid, with a couple of strong twists, and while some readers might see the ending coming, Baldacci still provides a fun, entertaining journey getting there.