Book review: The Fix by David Baldacci
FBI special agent Amos Decker is no James Bond'¦ he's overweight, socially inept, needs a haircut and his stained clothes could do with a good wash.
But the former football pro turned spook has a weapon in his armoury that makes him indispensable to his bosses … hyperthymesia, a medical condition better known as perfect memory recall.
Unique and endlessly fascinating, Decker is the brainchild of David Baldacci, one of the world’s most inventive and popular thriller writers. The former lawyer published his first novel Absolute Power, an instant bestseller, in 1996 and over 100 million book sales later, this talented US author is still at the top of his game.
The Fix is the third novel in the Amos Decker crime series featuring one of Baldacci’s most extraordinary and complex anti-heroes yet… a ‘six-five’ ex-NFL star whose near-fatal head injury turned a fun-loving sportsman into a shambling shadow of his former self.
Add to that the constant, traumatic recall of his wife and daughter’s murder, and synaesthesia, another rare condition caused by the head injury which makes him see the world as ‘ethereally bright blue,’ and you have one seriously damaged man.
Fortunately for Decker, his remarkable photographic memory has enabled him to find work with a newly formed FBI task force set up to solve cold cases.
The busy street outside the Edgar J. Hoover Building – Washington DC headquarters of the FBI – should be one of the safest places on Earth but on his way in to work, special agent Amos Decker witnesses a shocking double shooting.
Walter Dabney, a loving family man and owner of a successful government contracting business, does the unthinkable. He shoots 59-year-old school teacher Anne Berkshire through the head in cold blood before turning the gun on himself.
Baffled by what appears to be a seemingly senseless and random killing, even with the help of Decker's extraordinary powers of observation and deduction, the team delves into the lives of Dabney and Berkshire to try to find a connection that doesn’t seem to exist.
What they do find are secrets that stretch back a lifetime but then enter Harper Brown, an agent with the Defense Intelligence Agency, who orders Decker to back off the case. The murder is part of an open DIA investigation, one so classified that Decker and his team are not cleared for it.
They learn that the DIA believes solving the murder is now a matter of urgent national security. Critical information may have been leaked to a hostile government – or worse, an international terrorist group – and an attack may be imminent.
Decker has never been one to follow the rules, especially with the stakes so high. Forced into an uneasy alliance with Agent Brown, Decker remains laser focused on only one goal… solving the case before it’s too late.
The Fix is a compelling ride from first page to last, the stunning opening sequences setting the scene for a crime mystery that rapidly evolves into a fast-moving political thriller packed with lies, conspiracies, secrets and espionage.
Decker is becoming a solid and exciting character, his quirks, recalcitrance and rare insights making him an engaging protagonist, and his gently unfolding relationship with beautiful colleague and flat mate Alex Jamison forming a fascinating sideshow.
With labyrinthine plot twists to enjoy, a ‘why did they do it’ mystery to solve and Baldacci’s trademark attention to detail to impress and delight, this is crime writing at its very best.
(Macmillan, hardback, £16.99)