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29 April 2015

David Baldacci: Memory Man

Agonies of a perfect memory
Over the years David Baldacci has created a range of interesting characters and this one is probably one of the most unusual. Amos Decker was involved in a serious violent football tackle where he died twice and woke up with hyperthymesia (an exceptional memory of everything that happens).

Amos - the "Memory Man"- went on to become an excellent detective (helped by his great recall of details). One evening he returns home and finds his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law have been brutally murdered. Amos's world collapses as he is not able to forget anything about that night - his mind replays things like a DVD. He just avoids suicide, quits his job, and becomes homeless. Eventually he pulls himself together sufficiently to set up as a PI and earn enough to live in a low-cost Motel.

Amos is a pretty forbidding character, six-five, and has let himself go - fifty pounds overweight, shaggy and initially bearded. Because of his "gifts" his social skills are lacking (he's a bit of  a UK TV's Doc Martin).

Horrific murders happen at the local high school and Amos is asked by the local police chief to help because they a don't have a clue how the killer got into or out of the school. At the same time a strange man confesses to the police that he murdered Amos's family, but was in police custody at the time of the murders. Amos has to take better control of himself as the two tragedies slowly converge and he is the only person who can unravel what has happened.

Baldacci has written a complex, frequently confused story about a huge man with a huge memory who is struggling to understand and survive huge emotional traumas. The plot meanders and loses direction and sometimes passes the believability level. The book it is listed as a standalone but the ending suggests that Baldacci plans to bring Amos back and it seems to me that he has edited parts at the last moment to allow this to happen. This is very confusing - I am not sure if this is a good idea as Baldacci has several other good characters around (for example, Will Robie, the hitman with a conscience, is coming back in November).

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