Man by David Baldacci is a compelling novel. This new
series is a fascinating characterization, featuring Detective
Amos Decker who has unique abilities. Although Baldacci's
other series are gripping thrillers this new one is more powerful
as readers immediately will root for Decker as he attempts
to overcome his past demons.
Baldacci noted, "It is always a challenge to keep things
fresh. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something
new, to challenge myself. I decided to write it as a series
because I can develop the characters over time. I will have
the main character working with the FBI so there will be endless
possibilities. Because he is the anti-thesis character I normally
write about, this series has energized me. I really like getting
into his skin."
The plot explains how a career ending football injury induced
synesthesia, a neurological condition, which gave Decker symptoms
that include remembering everything, counting in colors, and
seeing time as pictures in his head. Unfortunately, the injury
caused him to lack sympathy and empathy for everyone but his
immediate family: his wife, and daughter. But the loves of
his life were also taken away from him when they were brutally
murdered. With grief encompassing him he hits rock bottom,
living in a cardboard box in a parking lot. That is until
the arrest of Sebastian Leopold who confesses to the slaughter
of his family. At the same time, a horrific event, a mass
killing, occurs at the local high school. To help solve the
crimes, Decker is enlisted as a police paid consultant so
they can utilize his ability to never forget anything. His
startling discovery links the school killings with those of
his family as it becomes evident the murders are personal.
The plot becomes intense as Decker and the killer play mind
games, attempting to manipulate one another to see which one
will be left standing in the end.
Baldacci wrote about this neurological condition because he
has "always been intrigued and have read lots of books
about the functions of the mind, particularly after trauma.
I read the book Born On A Blue Day and realized this
neurological condition is a change in the brain wiring. What
this is about is the sensory pathways in our head that deal
with sight, smell, etc. Think of this as railroad lines that
get crossed because of a hit in the head where all of a sudden
numbers are colors. For example, Amos saw the murders of his
family in blue. I like that the diagnosis of synesthesia gives
him a different perspective. He has problems and issues. He
cannot relate socially anymore because of what happened to
his mind after the football hit. Yet, what makes him such
a good detective is, as he says in the book, "the bad
guys take care of the big details, but it is the small ones
that trip us up." Many of us go through life and are
oblivious to the small things around us, not Amos. He is extraordinary
in select fields because of his recall ability."
All the characters in the book are very well developed and
create a frightening atmosphere. Decker is very sympathetic
and is not the run of the mill police character. He is over-weight,
gruff, a battered individual, and a loner. Yet, what makes
him fascinating is how he can see the little clues in the
crime scene investigation. These clues, a notebook, a ceiling
tile, and the temperature in a freezer, become significant
discoveries. He is complimented by his partner Mary Lancaster
who has learned over the years how to handle Decker, FBI agent
Ross Bogart, and investigative reporter Alexandra (Alex) Jamison
who are learning what makes Decker tick. The killer is brilliantly
menacing, cunning, dangerous, and intelligent.
David Baldacci has definitely hit a home run with Memory
Man. This psychological thriller does not only get into
the mind of the characters but gets into the mind of the readers.
This is one of those stories that will stay with the reader
even after the book is finished. A definite page-turner.