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Book Nook - 28-05-2019

Tuesday, May 28, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Decker’s Dilemma
David Baldacci’s unusual creation, Amos Decker, the man with a perfect memory, returns in the fifth book of the series—Redemption. 

For those who may not have encountered Decker before, a football injury in his youth, rewired his brain so that he is unable to forget anything--a medical condition known as hyperthymesia. He also suffers from synesthesia, which means his brain associates different emotions with a particular colour—like blue for death.

In previous books in the series, Decker hit rock bottom and lost his job as a cop, when his wife, daughter and brother-in-law were brutally murdered, and fingers pointed at him—the ordeal made worse by his inability to forget the sight of them lying dead in his house. Later, he is rehabilitated and absorbed into the FBI by the sympathetic Ross Bogart; he has as partner and friend, former journalist, Alex Jamison.

Decker’s gigantic size, strength and unique memory make him an asset for the force, even though he is emotionally messed up. Every year, he returns to his hometown on his daughter’s birthday to visit the graves of his family. At the cemetery, a called Meryl Hawkins approaches him and claims, that twelve years ago, Decker had sent him to prison for multiple murders he did not commit. Now, he is dying of cancer and demands his name be cleared.

His former partner, Mary Lancaster, thinks the man who has spent so many years in jail, deserves a hearing at least. By the time, they reach his hotel room to talk, he has been shot dead.

Who would kill a man with a few days to live, unless there is a reason to silence him. Now Decker is convinced Hawkins was indeed innocent, and his conscience will not let him rest till he finds out the truth, even it means putting his own career on the line. From what Hawkins tells him, Decker suspects that in his enthusiasm to crack his first homicide case, as a rookie cop, he may have overlooked certain vital clues.

As Decker starts digging, it does look like all the clues they found on the scene of the crime, that helped indict Hawkins were too conveniently planted. When he is at the lowest rung of despair, and Jamison is pulled off the case, who should turn up but his buddy Melvin Mars? Decker had saved Mars from death row in the second book of the series, The Last Mile. Mars has become a sidekick, who rallies around to help Decker, just for the adventure.

When the body count starts growing, Decker realises he is up against a powerful enemy. Baldacci’s writing is always smooth; this book has more twists than the usual investigative thriller, even if the solution to the mystery is  bit far-fetched.  Redemptionallows for breaks when Decker handholds Lancaster through a crisis and the impeccably dressed Mars gets to flirt with the town’s beautiful and mysterious entrepreneur, Rachel Katz.  Maybe it’s time Mars got his own series in which Decker makes ‘guest’ appearances, since his total recall plot device has stretched as far as it could go.
 
Redemption
By David Baldacci
Publisher: Grand Central
Pages: 432

 

Excerpt Of Redemption
A gentle rain kicked in as Decker trudged along the pavement.

It felt very odd to once more be investigating a crime in his hometown. The last time had involved the murder of his family. This one was different, but it still affected Decker personally.

If I was part of convicting an innocent man?

He looked around as he walked. He had decided not to come back for Cassie’s birthday, or their wedding anniversary. That simply would have been too much for him to handle. Yet he would keep returning for their daughter’s birthday. He had to be here for that milestone, though each visit was emotionally crippling for him.

His long feet carried him past where he was staying, and after a few miles he reached the long-established neighborhood. It was light now. He stopped walking and stood on the corner staring up at the place he used to call home.

The last time he’d been here was two years ago. It looked remarkably unchanged, as though time had stood still since his last visit. Although there were two unfamiliar cars in the driveway, a Ford pickup and a Nissan Sentra.

As he stood there, a man in his early thirties and a girl around seven came out of the side door. The girl was carrying a school backpack and the man was dressed in khakis and a white collared shirt with a windbreaker over it. He carried a slim briefcase in one hand. The girl yawned and rubbed her eyes.

They climbed into the pickup truck and backed out of the driveway. That’s when the man spotted Decker standing there watching the house.

He rolled down his window. “Can I help you, buddy?”

Decker studied him more closely. “You must be Henderson.”

The man eyed him suspiciously. “How do you know that?”

“A friend told me.” He pointed at the house. “I used to live there a few years ago.”

Henderson ran his gaze over Decker. “Okay. Did you leave something behind?”

“No, I, uh…” Decker’s voice trailed off, and he looked confused.

Henderson said, “Look, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a little odd that you’re standing out here this early in the morning watching my house.”

Decker pulled his FBI creds out of his pocket and showed them to Henderson. “My friend on the police force told me you’d bought the house.”

“Wait a minute,” said Henderson, staring at the ID card. “Amos Decker?”

“Yeah.”

Henderson nodded and looked anxious. “I heard about—” He snatched a glance at his daughter, who was paying close attention to this exchange.

“Right. Anyway, have a good day. Hope you enjoy the house and the neighborhood. Nice place to raise a family.”

Decker turned and walked off as Henderson drove away.

It had been stupid coming back here. He’d rattled the guy unnecessarily. And for what? He didn’t need to come here for a walk down memory lane. It was all in his head. Pristine. Forever.

And painfully so.

He retraced his steps and got to the hotel where he and Jamison were staying in time to see her exit the elevator and walk into the lobby.

“Christ, Decker, are you just getting in?” she said, eyeing his grungy, wet clothes.

“Good morning to you too. Would you like to get some breakfast?”

She followed him into the dining area off the lobby. They sat, ordered some food, and sipped their coffees.

“So?” said Jamison. “Was Susan Richards any help?”

“She didn’t cop to the murder if that’s what you’re asking. She doesn’t have a solid alibi. She was home asleep, she says.”

“Well, considering the hour, that makes sense.”

“We may be able to tighten the parameters on that by talking to her neighbors. But I don’t think she’s good for it. She says she didn’t even know he was back in town.
And that seems perfectly logical.”

“Unless she saw him on the street.”

“I saw him and didn’t recognize him,” said Decker. “And I spent a lot of time with the guy all those years ago.”

“Have you called Bogart and gotten his permission to work on this?”

He said quietly, “We’ve, uh, talked. I’m surprised he hasn’t called you.”

“No, he didn’t. So what did he say?”

At that moment their food arrived. Decker said, “I’ll fill you in later.”

“Thank you for ordering a veggie omelet, by the way,” said Jamison. “And avoiding the bacon.”

“You must be growing on me.”

“Well, I’m just happy that you’re not growing anymore. You look good, Decker.”

“That’s a stretch, but thanks.”

 He put his knife and fork down and finished his coffee.

“What are you thinking?” asked Jamison.

“I’m thinking that there’s a killer walking around town this morning thinking he or she got away with murder, and it’s really pissing me off.”

“Is that all?”

He looked at her curiously. “Isn’t that enough?”

“I mean, do you feel guilty about what happened to Meryl Hawkins?”

 “I didn’t pull the trigger on the guy. I didn’t ask him to come here and ignite this case again.”

“But you think that the fact that someone killed him is evidence that he might have been innocent? I mean, you basically said that earlier.”

“Meaning that I made a mistake?” said Decker slowly.

“I wouldn’t look at it that way. You investigated the case and all the evidence pointed to that guy. I would have seen it the same way.”

“Regardless, if he was innocent, I have to make it right.”

Jamison hiked her eyebrows. “Because the weight of the world’s problems always falls on your admittedly broad shoulders?”

“Not the weight of the world. The weight of one case that I handled. Responsibility comes with the territory. My actions took a guy’s freedom away.”

“No, I’d say his actions took his freedom away.”

“Only if he did it,” countered Decker. “If he didn’t commit the crimes, it’s a whole other ball game.”

 

The Typewriter Talks
There is a funny bit in Linwood Barclay’s A Noise Downstairs, where a man has to explain to his son what a typewriter is, because, looking at the noisy gadget without a monitor, the kid cannot understand what the thing is used for.

The typewriter plays a starring role in the book, however, as the clack of its keys spook a man who has a lot more to worry about. Paul Davis is driving home, when he sees Kenneth, a colleague at the college where he teaches, driving a car with a broken taillight and erratically at that. Paul follows him to check whether is he drunk or asleep at the wheel. Kenneth’s actions are suspicious—he stops to throw something heavy into a dumpster, and then stops at an isolated spot. Paul approaches the car and what he sees in the backseat shocks him; the next thing he knows, Kenneth has hit him on the head with a shovel.

Thanks to a police car driving past, Paul is saved from being murdered, but suffers some brain damage and has PTSD for which he has to see a therapist, Anna White, who has problems of her own, including a father slipping into dementia and a troublesome patient.

Paul figures that he will only be able to really cope with what happened that night if he can reconstruct the event, for which he is willing to overlook his unease and meet Kenneth in prison. If anything positive comes out of the traumatic incident, it is the healing of the rift with his estranged wife.

Then, a typewriter that his wife gifted him, starts clacking in the middle of the night, and after all rational reasons have been eliminated, it leaves the supernatural.

Barclay strews the story with red herrings, so the suspense holds to the end. The novel is structured well, the protagonist is likeable, and the reader cannot see the final twist coming. Plenty of reasons to try this one.
 
The Noise Downstairs
By Linwood Barclay
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages 368

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