Aug 29 2016
Memory Man, the first book in David Baldacci’s new series came as a big surprise for a long-time reader like me. With a new central character Amos Decker who had hyperthymesia – the ability to remember everything -the book featured some good mysteries and didn’t have even a whiff of American politics, the subject of almost all Baldacci books. The second book in the series, The Last Mile, also kicks off with a good mystery as a high school football player Melvin Mars, who is jail for the murder of his parents, gets a last-minute reprieve when another criminal confesses to the murders. Decker, who hears the news on the radio, takes up the case.
The plot moves briskly for a while with some interesting questions(like the timeline) surrounding the day Mars supposedly killed his parents and the reasons behind the confession by a man seemingly unrelated to Mars. But beyond a certain point, it starts to get incredibly convoluted. It touches everything from a foreign drug mafia to racism in the past and takes too many turns to connect them all up. At the same time, the answers to the most interesting questions end up being too simplistic. The way the mystery is solved isn’t very satisfactory either. Decker has too many leaps of intuition and there are points where he seems to be clairvoyant rather than just having a good memory.
With Think of a Number, John Verdon jumped right to the top of my favorite authors list. The intriguing mysteries, the interesting investigation and the elegant solutions made it a suspenseful, gripping read. The next 2 books weren’t as good but still good reads but his fourth book Peter Pan Must Die saw Verdon return to form with a good mystery and a surprising but logical answer. In his latest book Wolf Lake, detective Dave Gurney gets involved in the case of a hypnotherapist John Hammond, 3 of whose patients have committed suicide after getting identical dreams. Hammond is the resident hypnotherapist at a resort(the owner also committed suicide after getting the same dream) and that’s where Gurney goes to investigate the case.
The question about how different persons can get the same dream is an interesting question but its unfortunately the only interesting question that the book throws up. Gurney’s investigation eventually leads to an incident in the past, a very cliched plot point and the answers to main mystery end up being quite disappointing. The case also involves some hi-tech gadgetry and government involvement but they don’t amount to much other than some small mysteries that are solved soon. In the previous books, Gurney’s wife stayed on the sidelines. Here she is directly involved with her own link to Wolf Lake but her parts become quite irritating as they simply distract Gurney from his main investigation at key points in the story.
Baldacci and Verdon are 2 of my favorite authors and it was rather sad to read disappointing books from both of them. I’m now reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and so far it looks like Rowling isn’t going to disappoint. More on that later…