Saturday, June 29, 2019

Book Reviews: The Fix

The Fix
by David Baldacci
This is another installment in the Amos Decker detective series. Decker is a detective on semi-permanent loan to the FBI. He is a former college football player who is fighting a desperate battle against the scale. Decker suffered major injuries, including brain injury, in the college game that ended his career and any chance at NFL stardom. Worse, years later, Decker's wife and daughter were murdered. 

However these two tragedies deeply impacted his life. Decker sees emotions and events in color. He also has a photographic memory for everything he sees and near total inability to forget anything, ever, including his family's murder scene. This event left Decker with a fierce desire to see justice done whatever the cost. 

Although Decker may see emotions in color, he sees things morally in stark black and white. Either a job is done or it is not. Someone is guilty or they are not. Decker's highest loyalty is to the truth, not to his friends, his bosses, the FBI, or even justice. Decker may have been made mildly autistic by his brain injury all those years ago, as he lacks awareness of social cues that most people, even extremely shy people, take for granted. Decker will suddenly stop talking to someone and get up and walk out of the room. Nonetheless his heart is in the right place. He gets obsessed with loose ends and finding the truth. He rarely means to offend someone and will apologize if he becomes aware that he has.

Going to attend a meeting at FBI headquarters, Amos Decker witnesses a man named Walter Dabney shoot and kill a woman named Anne Berkshire before turning the weapon on himself. Dabney is a defense and intelligence consultant. Berkshire is a schoolteacher. The case becomes federal because of Dabney's links to the federal government. 

But try as they might no one can find any links between Dabney and Berkshire. The two didn't know each other or run in the same business or social circles. Berkshire had no family. Walter did. His wife and adult daughters are shocked and dismayed. They know don't know why Dabney would have committed murder. 

Before Decker and his team can really get going on this case they are warned off the case by Harper Brown, a hard charging agent with the military's Defense Intelligence Agency, who lets them know that this case could have national security implications on the level of magnitude of 9/11. But Decker doesn't let go of a mystery, even if he's ordered to do so. And the FBI doesn't want to let go of a case like this, for bureaucratic pride as much as anything else. Decker notices things. And he notices when 2+2=5. 

Baldacci keeps a lot of balls whirling in the air. Although the story definitely pulls off the bad guy hiding in plain sight trope, which has become a bit of a cliche, the story is very intelligent in how it handles this. Clues are dropped and referenced throughout the book, It is a lot of fun for the reader to try to figure out what's what. This is akin to a locked room mystery mixed with political thriller and a hint of romance. At just over 450 pages this was a meaty read that moved. Baldacci prefers crisp direct dialogue. It's not quite as sparse as James Ellroy's but this is not a story that is going to put you to sleep with lengthy prose. This is a thinking man's or thinking woman's thriller/mystery that is teeming with smarts.
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