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 [email protected]
Memory Man Returns
In his first Amos Decker book, Memory Man, David Baldacci created a unique character — man with total recall. It sounds like a superpower but when memories are painful, it can be endless trauma.
In the earlier book, Baldacci gave Decker’s backstory--as a young football player, he had been blindsided in his first game and got hit on the head so violently that he was declared dead. When he was revived, something had happened inside his brain that made him “an acquired savant with hyperthymesia and synesthesia abilities.” Which in simple terms means he can never forget anything even if he wants to.
After he recovers, he goes on to become a cop, and because he has an exceptional brain, makes for a very good investigator. One night Decker returns home to find his wife, little daughter and brother-in-law slaughtered. The shock unravels him — he gives up his job, loses his home and car, becomes a recluse, making a sparse living as a private eye.
By the end of the novel, he had been offered a position with the FBI, by Agent Ross Bogart, along with his journalist supporter, Alexandra Jamison, to work on unsolved cases. He had put all his belongings into his car and started driving to his new life in Quantico. In the second Decker book, The Last Mile, he arrives at his destination and right into a case made for him.
Melvin Mars, a bi-racial sports star who was accused of murdering his parents, spent twenty years on death row and kept declaring his innocence. The day he is due to be executed (a chilling sequence), another death row prisoner in a far off town, confesses to the double murder. Decker used to know Mars in the past and believes this is the case the should begin with; the others on the team are clinical psychologist Lisa Davenport, who agrees and the hostile Todd Milligan, who drags his feet.
They travel to Texas to meet Mars, who is in hospital after being attacked by evil prison guards and surprised to see the FBI on his side. In this book, Decker struggling with his weight problem is far less interesting than a man almost driven to suicide by despair. His amazing memory is not put to much use either, though his prodigious powers of investigation and deduction are.
After a terrific start, the story starts to get too convoluted and implausible, even though the twists come along nicely and the body count rises steadily. It’s worth a read for Baldacci fans.
The Last Mile
By David Baldacci
Publisher: Grand Central
Bestselling writer Harlan Coben’s latest, Food Me Once, begins with the funeral of Maya Stern’s husband, Joe Burkett. Maya, a pilot and combat veteran had quit the forces under a cloud, and gone on to marry a wealthy man. Earlier, her sister Claire had also been tortured and killed in her own home by killers who escaped, and Maya is told by her grieving brother-in-law that death follows her.
Still haunted by the past, and trying to come to terms with the mugging incident that took her husband’s life, Maya wants to keep her two-year-old daughter Lily safe and installs a hidden camera at a friend’s suggestion, to keep a check on the child’s nanny Isabella. What she sees during a random check of the footage, shocks her and sets her on the track of an investigation that involves her dead husband’s rich and powerful family. She does not trust Roger Kierce, the homicide detective investigating Joe’s murder and wants to get at the truth.
There’s a Julian Assange kind of whistle blower, Corey Rudzinski, stalking her — the man who had been instrumental in destroying her military career.
Then, Kierce drops a bombshell — the same gun was used to shoot both Joe and Claire — and the motive for both lies buried amidst the Burkett family secrets.
The book is fast-paced and masterfully plotted, but after the unexpected climax, when the reader thinks about the sequence of events, there is a big loophole. Still, the many twists and turns make it unputdownable. Reports say a film based on this book is in the making, with Julia Roberts playing Maya.
Fool Me Once
By Harlan Cohen
Except of Fool Me Once
“You want Mommy to read you the book?”
Maya brought her downstairs and sat her at the kitchen table. The video was still running. One thing Maya had learned: Little kids love repetition. They didn’t want new experiences quite yet. Lily had a whole collection of cardboard books. Maya loved the narrative drive of the P. D. Eastman, books like Are You My Mother? or Fish Out of Water, both featuring scary moments and twist endings. Lily would listen — any book was better than no book—but she always returned to the rhymes and artwork of Dr. Seuss, and really, who could blame her?
Maya glanced at the computer monitor as the nanny-cam video played on. On the screen, Lily and Isabella were both on the couch. Isabella fed Lily one Goldfish cracker at a time, like they were smelts awarded to a performing seal. Taking a cue from the feed, Maya grabbed the Goldfish down from the pantry and spread some out on the table. Lily started to eat them one at a time.
“You want something else?”
Lily shook her head and pointed to the book. “Read.”
“Not ‘read.’ Say, ‘Please, Mommy, will you read . . .’” Maya stopped. Enough with the performing seal. She picked up the book, turned to page one, started with the one fish, two fish, turned the page. She was just reaching the fat fish with the yellow hat when something on the computer monitor snagged her gaze.
Maya stopped reading.
Excerpt of The Last Mile
It was right down the hall. The last mile, they called it. Yet it wasn’t a mile. It was actually only thirty feet, which was good because most guys collapsed before they got there. But they had big guards who picked you up and carried you the rest of the way.
Texas killed you dead whether you took it brave or not.
The Supreme Court had debated the cruel and unusual aspects of death by lethal injection because of quite a few instances where the inmate had been in terrible agony before he died. The court had come down on the side of letting it continue, appalling agony be damned. It wasn’t like the condemneds’ victims hadn’t suffered horrific pain and fear. So who could say they were wrong? Mars couldn’t. He just hoped they got it right with him.
The death chamber was not large, nine by twelve feet, with cheery turquoise-painted brick walls and metal door, which seemed out of place with the room’s purpose. You were being executed, not vacationing in the Caribbean.
The gurney, which came with a comfy pillow and sturdy leather straps, was set near the center of the room. There were two adjacent rooms with glass windows looking into the chamber. One was for families of the victim. The other was for family of the person being executed.
Mars knew that in his case the groups were one and the same. And he also knew that both rooms would be empty.
He sat back on his bunk soaking in the stink of his own sweat, his mind drifting back to the only good memories he had left.
He was hardly a jumbo in the world of college football, but he’d been big for a running back. Most important, he’d been long on talent. The NFL was considered a lock for someone like him. He had been a Heisman Trophy finalist his senior year, the only tailback in the group. The others had all been quarterbacks. He could run over, around, or simply through anyone. He could block, and his soft hands could catch the ball coming out of the backfield. And he nearly always made the first guy miss with an instinctive lateral move —a rare talent the NFL gurus lapped up.
And when he needed the turbos they flared to life and he was gone. The only thing left to do was hand the ball to the ref after scoring and go let coach pat his butt on the sidelines.
His official time in the forty-yard dash at the combine was 4.31 seconds. Twenty years ago that was serious speed even for a corner or a receiver, much less a monster running back with shoulders as wide as the sky who made his living smashing between the tackles. And it would still be considered exceptional wheels even today.
God-given it was. He was the total package. A freak of nature, they called him.
He felt a smile spread across his sweaty face.
Yes, a lock. A lock with a big paycheck. This was long before the salary constraints for rookies had been implemented. He could have scored big bucks from day one, millions and millions of them. A mansion, cars, women, respect.
He was a guaranteed first rounder, everyone said. Probably top five. He would probably go ahead of several of the quarterbacks he had competed against for the Heisman. It was rumored that the New York Giants, coming off a couple crappy years, and the Tampa Bay Bucs, coming off many crappy years, and both armed with a high draft pick, would love to take him and open the bank of their wealthy owners in doing so. Hell, he might even hoist some Super Bowl hardware one day. It was all looking good. He’d worked his ass off for all of it. No one had given him anything. The hurdles had been immense. He had leapt them all.
And then the jury had spoken. “We find the defendant guilty” — and no one in the world of professional football gave a damn about 4.31 Mars, Melvin anymore.
Jumbo had crashed.
There were no survivors.
And in a few minutes, there would be no more of him. He would be laid to rest in a potter’s field because he had no one left to bury him proper.
He would have been forty-two years old in two months. His forty-first had been his very last birthday, as it turned out.
He looked at his watch again. The time was up. His watch told him that, and so did the sound of the footsteps coming down the hall. He had long since made up his mind. He would die like a man. Back straight, head high.