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The Fallen


The Fallen

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle figured out early on that if he was going to be successful writing a mystery series, he had better make his protagonist stand out in some way. Yes, Sherlock Holmes may be the most brilliant detective of all time, but he also had his vices and quirks. In much the same way that it is impossible to imagine Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot without his snuff box and moustache wax, the most well-known detectives in literary history have something about their personality that allows them to be front and center in our memories.

Now let's look at David Baldacci. He has not one but several series going at the same time and doesn't seem to be losing steam any time soon --- a feat that I find amazing as other prolific writers come across as diluted and formulaic by comparison. Perhaps the most interesting of Baldacci's literary creations is the self-proclaimed Memory Man, Amos Decker, who works for the FBI and is teamed with his colleague, Alex Jamison.

"The pace picks up considerably with each passing chapter until the inevitable ending that most surely will deliver a resolution at about the same time you are catching your breath."

Decker is unique for many reasons. An ex-NFL player with an imposing physical presence, his destiny was changed forever when a serious head injury sustained during a game caused two significant conditions: hyperthymesia, or perfect recall --- a great skill to have in his line of work --- and synesthesia, which allows him to associate things, like death, with color. Death shocks him with a bolt of electric blue that he still has trouble getting used to.

At the onset of THE FALLEN is an unexpected fire that Decker witnesses from the back deck of Jamison's sister's home in Baronville, Pennsylvania. It is during a visit to the house located near the Ohio border that their latest case literally lands in their laps. When Decker runs into the home that is on fire, he makes a startling discovery. There are two dead bodies --- one is hanging by the neck and the other is on the floor in the basement, the latter of which is clad in a police uniform. The cause of the fire is the large amount of blood that pooled and came in contact with exposed wiring, which is confounding to Decker, given that neither corpse had any visible wounds.

Just like that, Decker and Jamison's brief vacation is cut short, and they dive into the case. They are quickly joined by two of Baronville's finest, Detectives Green and Lassiter. Initially the local team is reluctant to pair up with our protagonists, but soon find that their FBI expertise will come in handy. What Decker and Jamison need before anything is a quick course in Baronville history. It seems that many strange and criminal activities have been happening there, most of which can be traced back to the family for which the town is named. The current Baron, John, is a quite likable fellow who tries to keep to himself. This does not always work out as there are members of the town who will stoop to criminal levels to take a shot at the Baron family. As one of the locals states, "There ain't nothing really illegal in Baronville."

The body count does not end with the two men Decker found. One murder after another follows, even people he had interviewed for the case. It appears that the answer may lie in the suggestion of a Baron treasure that has eluded all who have ever searched for it --- even the Baron family themselves. When John Baron is arrested in what looks like a set-up, Decker will be forced to call on all of his unique detecting skills to find the actual killer or killers before Baron is railroaded for crimes he did not commit. A moral turpitude clause in Baron's mortgage might be justification for someone to set him up to take a major fall and lose everything.

THE FALLEN, like all of Baldacci's work, continues rolling like a runaway train out of control. The pace picks up considerably with each passing chapter until the inevitable ending that most surely will deliver a resolution at about the same time you are catching your breath. Both Amos Decker and readers need to determine who “the fallen” are as represented in the title and how that comes to drive the plot.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 19, 2018

The Fallen
by David Baldacci

  • Publication Date: September 11, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538761386
  • ISBN-13: 9781538761380