This November MAF met to discuss Memory Man by David Baldacci. It was our first experience with this author, so we picked a book that was first in a series, as opposed to his first book. This meant that we could put on our critical reviewer hats more firmly as he was a very well-established writer when this book came out.
We found there was much to appreciate and to discuss with this novel. First and foremost is its exploration of what it might be like to have to live with hyperthymesia and synesthesia, as the hero, Amos Decker has done. With these conditions, a person has highly detailed recall of everything that happened to them on any given day. They essentially relive it in every way – good, or in many cases in this story, extremely bad. His synesthesia means he sees colors when he’s looking at numbers. Both of these conditions are a direct result of his having taken a life-threatening hit during his first professional football game. We talked about how timely this aspect of the book was with today’s concerns about concussions, etc. that football players in particular endure. For Amos, the hyperthymesia has meant that he constantly relives the day he came home to find his brother-in-law, wife, and child murdered. It’s led to his deep depression and the loss of his job. For a time he was homeless and aimless. Eventually, his state of being reaches a point that he feels ashamed of what his wife and child would think of him, and he sets up running a PI business out of his Residence Inn room. We admired the courage that would have taken to do this, especially since his memory of that horrible day are a constant presence for him.
We found his relationships with former colleges on the force to be realistic and touching, since both his ex-partner and his ex-boss are trying their best to keep him working and motivated. His motivation definitely increases when the case leads the FBI to his family’s killer and his determination to finally get justice for them. We thought this journey was suspenseful and well-constructed, although we had a couple of issues with how a fellow sufferer of hyperthymesia was handled. We enjoyed the puzzle aspects to the story which is not common in thriller/suspense stories – but worked very well here. (This is particularly true with the one involving the address to a place that is critical to solving the case.)
While we aren’t sure we like the notion that Amos may continue to work with Alex Jamison since she’s treated him so poorly in the past – but we’re willing to give her a second chance in future books! We were particularly pleased that the main killer was dealt with as we found this person to not only be repugnant, but evil. There was much discussion about this criminal’s partner in crime and whether there might have been a different way to deal with that character.
The book was greatly enjoyed by all who attended, and one member said that the only reason she read the book was because the group had picked it. It was not her typical cup of mystery tea – and she ended up really liking it, and that having this happen was a major motivation for why she joined MAF!