The Last Mile: David Baldacci
Imagine a haze or a huge fog that never seems to lift and clouds your vision and perception. Imagine watching it lift and the scene becoming clearer but the reality of what you see is not exactly what you have been taught to believe all of your life. What happens when you awaken to the fact that your life is a lie and the people that in it have twisted events, created and orchestrated them to the point that you wind up in prison for twenty years for a crime that you did not commit? What happens when you learn the harsh truth that your parents are the ones that framed you for murder and that it was supposedly to keep you safe? What happens when the world that you knew and the life you lived means nothing and that you find out that living without family other than your parents and your school community you really are all alone? What happens when you are incarcerated for the murder of your parents and have no idea how it happened? Welcome to Melvin Mars and his nightmare and the life he led as a child and a soon to be NFL football star as it all comes crumbling down like a house of cards with no foundation.
Amos Decker is about to embark on a whole new career along with three others who will create a special team to uncover and solve cold cases that the FBI has not closed. Meeting with this team and learning more about them Amos takes the lead in order to focus on the case he wants them to consider. But, each one has his/her own thoughts and when Amos Decker uses his amazing memory and recall talents to diffuse agent Milligan and his suggestions, the task force embarks on trying to learn more about Melvin Mars, his case and why someone by the name of Charles Montgomery confessed to the murders after all of these years. Montgomery is about to be executed and has nothing to lose but upon interviewing him and digging into his life we learn more about him, his past, his wife and son and why he just might be telling the truth or maybe not. Melvin Mars lived with Lucinda and Roy Mars and had little contact with anyone else. No family, no grandparents just a father who worked in a pawnshop and a mother who did odd jobs to make ends meet. Just who were these people and what did Melvin really know about them as the author weaves a plot so delicate, fragile and intricate like a spider spinning his web being careful not to break the thread and keep the web in tact. Why would someone frame his or her son for murder? Why isn’t anything known about his parents and could they be hiding from someone other than the law? While Decker and his team visit Montgomery in jail before he’s executed they come away thinking he might be telling the truth. Meeting his wife Regina sends some red flags as he notices things in her home that would make you wonder just where the items came from and how she afforded them. The stuff he saw when totally it was worth over 50 thousand dollars. Meeting her son Timmy and getting to hear his side they learn about an insurance policy she would get after he is executed.
Digging deeper they realize that Montgomery was paid by someone to lie and Regina went along with it in order to get money for herself and her son but when she started spending it she became a liability and had to be eliminated. Melvin was pardoned and then unpardoned because of what they discovered and if Montgomery lied about killing his parents then he must be guilty. His lawyer Mary Oliver at his side and hoping to get things reversed she even claimed to have filed several suits in his favor in order to get him compensated for the time he served and more.
Things heat up when they realize just who is behind the plot, who paid Montgomery and that someone that was thought to be dead was not. A switch was made and the death of one person was faked while the other was not. Melvin learns that his mother had a terminal illness and he never knew until he read the autopsy report. He learned a lot about Roy Mars and realized that he never really cared about him or his welfare. Roy Mars was evil and dangerous and would do anything to survive and someone was behind this plot. Three powerful men called the Three Musketeers lived above the law: One a police chief, one a businessman and the last a politician and the fourth you might say his father Roy.
Did Roy and Lucinda have a secret life before Melvin was born? Why would they panic when seen on a local sports program? Why did they never attend his games? Why did Roy empty his safety deposit box before he died? Why frame Melvin for the murder? Why did they say it would keep him safe? Who killed Regina?
A simple statement by an older dentist changes the playing field and Decker looks into the death of both of his parents and things spiral out of control when his team is pulled off the case and one of the members is kidnapped and he continues on because he is committed to helping Melvin learn the truth. Not only was he framed but the motel guy and his date lied about the time frame and his car was tampered with and you won’t believe who and why?
When the pieces start to fall into place and they wind up in meeting the three men who just might be behind this it leads back to fire in a church where Melvin grew up and then a fire in his old house when they decide to investigate his past. Recounting Montgomery’s past the author his drunk driving arrests, time in Vietnam and his other arrests in Mississippi. But, the fire at an African American Church in Cain Mississippi, triggers the fact that there was a switch made of some kind, someone else died in that fire and the pastor and the choir too. What significance the death of this other person has will alert readers to what happens next that leads the FBI to realize that three powerful men were involved and the link to power even greater. A story of power, greed, control and worst of all racial hate and prejudice against anyone that did not fit into their proper racial profile.
Getting to know Roy Mars more closely almost under a microscope the haze that clouded Melvin’s present and past becomes thicker as he realizes that he did not know his parents that well, he lived in a world that he thought was correct and perfect and just when you think the pieces are about to fall into place you won’t believe the twist that the author sends your way. Dealing with the Three Musketeers in their own way, Decker getting threatened and injured, Melvin never giving up and Bogart stretching his power to the limit, will Melvin stay out of prison? Will Lisa Davenport the member of their team live and be rescues? Who and why was she taken and why no ransom?
Decker is a strong character with a perfect memory and who sees colors that represent certain emotions like blue indicated death. His perfect memory and ability to recall events in a flawless manner will drive the plot, the investigation and the reader to try and keep pace with him as he delves deep into the history of a small town, three powerful people and the hope that he can stop what they started decades ago and want to continue now. Justifying their actions and not caring about who is guilty or who is not, Melvin Mars is the victim of poor timing, hate, deceit and parents who had their on agenda in mind. Why would parents want to take away their child’s chance of living a better life? Why would they insist that he sign over 30 percent of his future earnings as an NFL star player even before he signed with a team? What happens to Melvin Mars can happen to anyone but hopefully with Decker on his side he just might come out ahead. Someone is leaking information to the other side and someone is hiding in plain sight. Who? You won’t believe as author David Baldacci throws some serious curve balls, misfired touchdowns and poorly executed field goals in the way of Decker and his team in order to hopefully catch and killer and keep us from guessing the ending and leading us to the finish line before he delivers the final field goal.
Alex Jamison, Todd Milligan and Amos Decker make an unbeatable team that are relentless, smart, daring and won’t let anything get by them in order to make sure that Melvin Mars does not walk that Last Mile.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine