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Bookends: Living with the Curse of Total Recall January 31, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Living with the Curse of Total Recall

By Dan Davidson

October 5, 2016memory-man-audio

– 828 words –


Memory Man

By David Baldacci

Narrated by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy

13 hrs ad 17 mins

Hachette Audio


Paperback edition


560 pages



“Amos Decker would forever remember all three of their violent deaths in the most paralyzing shade of blue.”

Quirky detectives are all the rage on television these days. Bones, Castle and Elementary have all carried on the pattern that you could find in earlier shows like Monk, Pretender and Profiler.

The Amos Decker series, of which this is the first book, has a similar idea behind its central character. Decker, who had been a pretty good high school and college football player, made it to the NFL and was sidelined by a critical brain injury in his first game.

It did two obvious things to his brain and a third thing that is less obvious. The obvious things are revealed in that opening sentence and in the book’s title. Decker has perfect total recall. His memory is described as being like a DVD that he can access by date at any time he likes.

The other effect is that events in the real world, and in his recorded memories, often take on colours. Some emotional states are also coloured and his sense of impending danger comes with some nasty black shadows.

The less obvious change is in his emotional life. He has trouble dealing with empathy, doesn’t play well with others, and is very much a loner, Even people who value the edge that he seems to have as an investigator have trouble dealing with him as a person.

He managed to cope with the world pretty well, even got married, and fathered a daughter. Within his family unit he managed to function as an almost normal person with a range of emotional responses that, though muted, were still far beyond what he could manage with other people.

Then someone broke into his house, killed his wife and daughter and his brother-in-law, planted clues that seemed to point to him, and left him to discover the horrible mess when he returned from a police stakeout. While investigation proved him innocent, there was no clue as to who had actually done the deed. Amos’ life fell apart without his family foundation.

A year later, the former athletic police detective is off the force, grossly overweight, and, after a time living homeless on the streets, is barely able to support himself as a private eye, doing piecemeal work and living in a cheap residential hotel.

Two things happen to shake up his life again. First, a man walks into the police station where he used to work and confesses to the Decker murders. While it can absolutely be proven that he did not do them, he insists that he did and that it was all because Decker had once insulted him in a local 7/11 store. Decker, who literally can’t forget anything, has no memory of this man.

Second, there is a horrible massacre at the local high school – the one Decker once attended. There seem to be no clues. Decker’s former boss, knowing that this is the kind of case his old colleague used to excel at, brings him onto the case as a consultant and pairs him with the woman who used to be his partner when he was on the force.

Baldacci, who is the keyboard behind six different ongoing series, totaling 24 novels at present, along with a string of 11 standalone thrillers, and five children’s books, is really good at taking what starts out as a simple enough sounding initial case and complicating it beyond anything that the reader might expect at the beginning.

The first half of this book comes across as a very detailed police procedural, enhanced only by Decker’s strange brain and his ability to see things that others don’t. In painstaking, and yet interesting, detail he builds up the geography of the school, reveals how the killer got in, did what he did and managed to stay completely hidden the entire time, except by those he killed.

Then he turns up the heat.

The other thing I really like about Baldacci’s work is his ability to write strong female characters and really make them matter. In the King and Maxwell books, as well as the John Puller series, he has done such as good job at this that the people producing his audio books feel the need to have male and female voices.

Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy are teamed up again for this one. McLarty gets the male voices and the narration, but Cassidy voices two strong female characters and a number of others.

The Decker and Puller series seem to be the most recent books Baldacci is working on, based on their publication dates. They make great audio books, using the same team of narrators.





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