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The dark secret of a double killing outside the FBI HQ

The dark secret of a double killing outside the FBI HQ

A gangland-style execution -- and the murderer's subsequent suicide -- right outside the FBI headquarters in Washington is witnessed by an extraordinary agent who is now tasked to solve it. But, while he cannot find any links between the two, comes another agency which fears the case has more sinister overtones.

The executioner is no criminal, but rich businessman Walter Dabney, who has worked with the agency on several contracts and is a loving family man. So what made him kill Anna Berkshire outside the J. Edgar Hoover Building? And what is the connection between them, leave alone the motive?

In his third appearance, Amos Decker, the man who can't forget anything, is now taken off the cold case unit to investigate this "hot", seemingly inexplicable crime which occurred before his eyes and he could not prevent.

But, while he is no run-of-the-mill officer, our hero, built like the football player he once was, is also cold, socially awkward, and more often than not spaced out. And he is definitely not a team player.

But even Decker gets stymied. With just his computer-like memory to go on, he forms various theories -- many of which seem to sit perfectly with the crime and answer all the questions -- but his gut says it's not right, until it doesn't. As he observes, just when things start to gel, "something else comes along and screws it up".

And then, the crime seems to spill over into the realm of national security.

While Decker suspects espionage, Defence Intelligence Agency agent Harper Brown enters the scene and tells Decker that they'll take over as they apprehend the crime could conceal a major threat. "We could be looking at a 9/11-type attack," as she puts it.

Decker, however, is not the one to give up and with Brown also not making much headway, the two form a grudging partnership. Can this socially awkward loner, a seemingly alienated but brilliant agent, find the missing piece and foil the conspiracy -- once he finally figures out what it is?

During the course of the investigation, he also has to fight his own demons. Decker still carries the trauma of the brutal murder of his wife and daughter (in his debut "Memory Man", 2015) and still can see the bodies clearly "as if it happened yesterday" -- the curse of his perfect recall.

This unparallelled creation of thriller master David Baldacci does not disappoint as he negotiates a course full of manifold twists and turns, dead ends galore and credulous superiors and turf fights to solve another dastardly crime -- with a shocking secret behind it.

And while Decker, a sort of synaesthetic who sees death in blue, and a sufferer of the rare mental condition hyperthymesia, which allows a near photographic memory and total recall (including of traumatic events), does not disappoint professionally, but his character development may not keep pace.

Decker almost seems non-human if you discount a few instances with a little boy who is dying of cancer and others with his young colleague Alex Jamison, a reporter-turned-FBI agent -- both of whom manage to arouse his more tender impulses.

Decker and Jamison, who share a house -- due to economic reasons -- have a platonic relationship. They do seem to care for each other but bicker like a long-married couple. For some sort of romance between the two, we might have to wait for another installment.

In "The Fix", the fast-paced narrative flows and if you discount a few juvenile discussions where both Decker and Jamison are worried about a grown-up friend having a one-night stand -- which, much to their relief, turns out to be more than that -- the book is hard to put down.

What actually keeps you hooked is its flawed but very relatable hero, who comes with a lot of baggage, like the rest of us. Decker has already fallen down and got back up in the previous novels and in this too, he overcomes his trauma to serve his country.

The Fix (Amos Decker Series)

By David Baldacci

Publisher: Pan Macmillan UK

Pages: 353

Price: Rs 599

-IANS

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