Amos Decker was a standout high school athlete, then a pretty good college football player. He worked his rear end off in an NFL training camp and made the roster. On the first play of his first game, his life changed forever.
Decker took a hit that laid him out and rewired his brain. He now has hyperthymesia, which means he never forgets anything — and that’s not necessarily a good thing. His sensory pathways were altered so he counts in colors and sees times as images in his brain. And his savant-like ways have robbed him of some social graces.
Once a police detective, he became a middling private investigator. Then, after solving a case that included the murder of his wife and daughter, he became part of a special FBI task force.
Introduced in David Baldacci’s “Memory Man,” Decker is now featured in “The Last Mile” (Grand Central, $29, 420 pages), leading the task force in a case that involves a former can’t-miss NFL prospect who spent 20 years on death row for killing his parents. But another man confessed to the crimes just hours before his execution in a Texas prison.
Decker can’t keep himself from the case because of the parallels. He and Melvin Mars played football against each other in college. Their careers were ended prematurely by tragedy. Their families were murdered, and in both cases another man later confessed to the killings.
Baldacci is an excellent storyteller, and Decker is a fascinating character. Bu Decker was a bit more fascinating in “Memory Man” as a giant of a man just finding his way in life while his rewired brain constantly forced him to relive the death of his family. In “The Last Mile,” Decker remains a larger-than-life force to be reckoned with, but his brainpower seems to tend more toward exceptional detective prowess than eccentricity.
Still, “The Last Mile” is a good, strong read featuring themes like family relationships, racism in the Deep South and, of course, capital punishment. Despite a major plot twist not coming as much of a surprise, the plotting is solid, and the pace fluid enough to keep a reader up past his bedtime.
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As summer reads go, there’s really no reason not to go “The Last Mile” with Amos Decker and David Baldacci.