Published: April 21, 2020
Amos Decker — the FBI consultant with a perfect memory — returns to solve a gruesome murder in a booming North Dakota oil town in the newest thriller in David Baldacci’s #1 New York Times bestselling Memory Man series.
When Amos Decker and his FBI colleague Alex Jamison are called to London, North Dakota, they instantly sense that the thriving fracking town is ripe for trouble. The promise of a second gold rush has attracted an onslaught of newcomers all hoping for a windfall, and the community is growing faster than houses can be built. The sudden boom has also brought a slew of problems with it, including drugs, property crimes, prostitution — and now murder.
Decker and Jamison are ordered to investigate the death of a young woman named Irene Cramer, whose body was expertly autopsied and then dumped in the open — which is only the beginning of the oddities surrounding the case. As Decker and Jamison dig into Irene’s life, they are shocked to discover that the woman who walked the streets by night as a prostitute was a teacher for a local religious sect by day — a sect operating on land once owned by a mysterious government facility that looms over the entire community.
London is a town replete with ruthless business owners, shady government officials, and religious outsiders, all determined to keep their secrets from coming out. When other murders occur, Decker will need all of his extraordinary memory and detective skills, and the assistance of a surprising ally, to root out a killer and the forces behind Cramer’s death. . . before the boom town explodes.
FBI consultant Amos Decker and his colleague, Alex Jamison, are summoned to the remote North Dakota Badlands when a hunter discovers the remains of a woman out on the Great Plains.
She appears to have had a post-mortem performed on her, reminiscent of those seen on TV cop shows – but this time, there was no slab, morgue or camera in sight. The reason why Irene Cramer’s murder merits an FBI investigation becomes rapidly clear when key questions surface about the woman’s mysterious past. As a teacher at a school managed by a local male-run sect, the Anabaptists, little is known about who she really was or where she came from.
Seeking information from the local community, Decker and Jamison observe the local town of London, North Dakota, which sits at the very heart of the fracking industry. Enriched with oil money, jealousy and a deep-set rivalry between its richest investors lie beneath a veneer of glitz and opulence.
But it is the nearby ‘eye in the sky’, the London Air Force Station, which may hold the answers. Acting as an early warning system, it can detect a nuclear threat to the US. Was Irene Cramer’s death connected in some way to the highly classified facility? When a mysterious government contact reaches out to assist their investigation, Decker realizes that this town holds secrets so explosive that their implications could destabilize the entire country .
I loved that Alex plays a key role here as well as Decker. She’s sometimes AWOL allowing Baldacci to bring in a few other regulars but this time the pair are partnered up the whole way.
Readers of Baldacci’s other work will be happy to see a bit of a crossover here, featuring a character (or two) from another series. I won’t say more as it was a bit of a surprise, but well done and their presence doesn’t diminish the achievements of Decker and Alex.
There’s A LOT happening in this book. It’s a three-for-the-price of one kinda book. Or maybe more. And it’s unfortunate for some involved in nefarious dealings that they get tangled up in something bigger that might have otherwise seen them escape scott-free.
Decker and Alex are ostensibly there because a woman’s been killed. Kinda savagely but they’re not quite sure of the reasoning behind their involvement. Until they realise there’s a Department of Defence base nearby.
And then there’s the town of London which felt a bit like a character itself. It’s run by two families – the fathers arch-rivals of sorts, though reliant on each other for business. We meet the next generation of both families and there’s a clash between the old school vs new school way of doing things.
Baldacci’s inclusion of mining / fracking and its impacts on communities is also timely given it’s the subject of debate in many countries. (Along with the economic benefits to towns and its people vs environmental and long term impacts.)
In all honesty I could have done without one of the threads of this mystery. I can’t reveal too much but it overcomplicates things and (in many ways) felt redundant. Although having said that, I was able to follow what was happening; and it does give Baldacci the opportunity to mislead we readers—on several occasions—as we assume we’ve got it all solved.
There’s less reliance on Decker’s abilities here – though his impressive memory does come through when he needs it. I actually kinda like his superpower but it’s a reminder that he was (and is) a good investigator either way.
I also continue to really like Alex, and we actually get a little more insight into both of their personal lives here.
We know about the murder of Decker’s wife and daughter that led him to crash and burn, but here we learn he’s cut off other family since and been reticent to re-establish contact. And I wasn’t sure I’d remembered (or knew) Alex had been married and there’s certainly a (back)story there!
I really enjoyed this book – the sixth in the series. It probably didn’t need to be as convoluted as it was, but Baldacci always manages to keep all of the balls in the air and doesn’t give us plot holes that cause us sleepless nights (or am I the only one who struggles if there’s a lack of closure?!).
Another excellent Amos Decker novel.