Memory Man: David Baldacci
What would you do if you never forgot anything? What would you do if as a result of a serious football head injury your mind and focus changed and your ability to process information was limitless? How would you deal with becoming what some might call a prodigious savant with a memory that never failed and the ability remember facts, details, information, settings, places and rewind them in your head like a video recorder in order to recount events. Amos Decker was seriously injured while playing football in the NFL. An accident that caused him to die twice and ended his pro football career as another player knocked into him so violently that is caused him to die and have to be revived. When he did he would up with a memory disorder called hyperthymesia and syynesthesia. Hyperthymesia is the condition of possessing an extremely detailed autobiographical memory. Hyperthymesia remember an abnormally vast number of their life experiences.( Wikipedia).
Having a memory that can process everything and forget nothing! Would you want it? But, some things might be better forgotten or tucked away in the recess of your mind but when Decker arrives home one evening the scene he encounters will haunt his nightmares and days forever. Coming into his home he goes up the stairs and finds his wife, daughter and brother-in-law slaughtered in the most graphic and horrific manners. A note on the wall would explain that he did something to “diss” the killer making him a target and his family the victims. A detective for the town of Burlington he loses sight of his life, career, home and everything that matters when his family is taken from him. Losing his way, letting himself go something within him snaps as a terrible onslaught of murders happens when a diabolical killer enters the high school and what looks like random killings might turn out to be a killer’s revenge. Mansfield High is the setting for these murders. But, first someone comes into the police station and confesses to killing his family. Did he? Smart, astute and able to pick out any nuances that do not add up in a person’s character, he manages to trick the public relations person into allowing him to meet with the would be murderer. Sebastian Leopold presented an odd figure to Decker and when questioning him the sequence of events and some parts of what he knew happened to his family did not add up when he related them. Digging deeper into the murders he would learn that there was a much more dangerous person that killed his family and the link to what he is about to discover about the murders at Mansfield High will shock readers and cause Decker to go on a rampage working with the police department to find answers. When the facts are revealed and the case is handed to him he and his former partner Mary Lancaster, proceed in a methodical, orderly and quite OCD’d manner as Decker explores the inner walls, behind and beneath floorboards and more as he takes apart pieces of walls, vents and more to uncover a killer’s hideout and understand the sequence of events that led to so many deaths and why.
Exploring the school Decker learns about many secret passageways and finds a freezer where the killer hid. Preparations were made long before the murders took place and the sequence of events stumped him and others. Debbie Watson was the first victim but why was she killed, what part did she play in the murders and why did the killer need her out of the way. Poor young girl from a broken home with two parents that were anything but nurturing and caring, fell into a situation where she thought she was loved.
Alexandra Jamison is a reporter who will stop at nothing to get a byline. She is ruthless, unfeeling and will does not appear to care about the person she spotlights in her article even if what she writes will do more harm than good. An article she posted about Decker and what she thinks is the reason behind the killings could destroy not only him but the investigation too. But, there is much more as Decker analyzes the events and realizes that Melissa Dalton said she heard a whooshing sound as the killer emerged at 7: 28 from his hiding place in a freezer. So, why didn’t she say anything and why didn’t anyone realize that the temperature was turned down in the freezer making it easy for the killer to remain there along with his next victim. No one heard anything. Not the food service, workers, visitors or parents of any of the students. Taking pictures from every angle and replaying the facts in his head Decker hoped to find the answer to a puzzle that had many disjointed pieces.
The killer was in the freezer hiding with the temperature turned down and no one realized it. Hiding the cammie gear in the ceiling and the timeframe was just being configured as he realized he had to enter the school before midnight. Debbie Watson was the first victim who knew something that caused the killer to silence her. The rest of his journey throughout the school is documented on pages 97- 98.
Sebastian Leopold was definitely a part of the plot and when confessing to the murders were being used as a decoy or ploy to throw the police in the wrong direction. So, what was his reasoning and why did he risk it all to get involved? With the police, FBI and Decker along with the reporter and Lancaster working twenty four seven the case was still taking forever to solve and each time they identified another possible suspect that suspect became a victim. A trial to convict Leopold turned ugly as the judge ruled that the prosecution did not have enough to hold him so where did he go and what is going to happen next? Decker meets up with Leopold in a bar, the conversation is almost one sided and the end result is startling. A drawing found within the belongings of Debbie Watson sets Decker off on all new trail. Speaking with the Watson’s would be futile as they were into their own problems and did not come across as loving or caring parents. Although the mother appeared to care about Debbie for the most part she insulted her husband and could not wait to escape his presence. Within pages 198-209 the killer’s path is mapped out by Decker as the reader goes along each step of the way, joins in the search, enters the tunnels and finds his/her way into the freezer, the back hallways, the underground places and possibly understand the connection the killer had to those that he killed. Football players, a federal agent, teachers and an assistant principal all died for a reason within the recesses of the mind of a sick killer whose life was marked by bullying, beatings, hurt, fear and whose memory mirrored that of Decker or even more powerful. Messages found in his house, on the body of the victim help uncover the identity of this person but will they get him before it’s too late. As they search for one they find another and each time the killer taunts him saying, “When will it end bro…? You tell me!”
With the article out that Jamison wrote and then her recanting her words what happens next will help readers understand the amazing memory that Decker has, his power of reasoning and the creativity of author David Baldacci to vividly describe each incident, each scene and create a character that readers will want more of in the future.
“I will kill them all,” says the killer in a message in a newspaper article that Jamison finds. Who is the killer referring to by all and who is all?
Different scenes and tortures done to each victim and the final reveal will take Decker to face the truth about why he was singled out, force him to make a life threatening decision and hope that his senses, skills as a detective will keep him alive. An ending that you won’t see coming and a killer whose life was ruined even before he/she committed the first crime. What was the hidden secret that the killer did not want revealed? Why did anyone learn about it and how did this play out in the quest for revenge?
Memory Man a haunting story that will play back in your mind even after you complete reading the book, find out the dramatic conclusion, enter the tunnels, hear Decker’s voice, come face to face with the killer and learn the startling true. Amos Decker: What’s next for him and will Jamison remain a reporter or continue her work as an investigator? What about Bogart? Memories are precious and you hope yours will be preserved for a lifetime but some memories are better left within the recesses of your mind and forgotten except if you are Decker who will never forget! With a dash of Adrian Monk, Hercule Poirot and methodical but sloppy Columbo we have DECKER!
Fran Lewis: Just Reviews