The Fallen: Amos Decker returns for a small-town mystery

The Fallen by David Baldacci book review

What is this about?: Decker and Jamison are on holiday when they get drawn into a murder investigation in the small town of Barronville, where they are visiting Jamison’s sister. To be more accurate, it’s 6 murders. From there, comes a conspiracy involving a town and inhabitants that are really just trying to survive, but find themselves addicted to drugs.

What else is this about?: An examination of Decker, his memory and him examining who he is with and without it.

Blurb

David Baldacci returns with the next blockbuster thriller in his #1 New York Times bestselling Memory Man series featuring detective Amos Decker–the man who can forget nothing.

Amos Decker and his journalist friend Alex Jamison are visiting the home of Alex’s sister in Barronville, a small town in western Pennsylvania that has been hit hard economically. When Decker is out on the rear deck of the house talking with Alex’s niece, a precocious eight-year-old, he notices flickering lights and then a spark of flame in the window of the house across the way. When he goes to investigate he finds two dead bodies inside and it’s not clear how either man died. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s something going on in Barronville that might be the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the country.

Faced with a stonewalling local police force, and roadblocks put up by unseen forces, Decker and Jamison must pull out all the stops to solve the case. And even Decker’s infallible memory may not be enough to save them. 

Stars: 3

I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Fallen, and Amos Decker, and while in some ways this didn’t disappoint, in others it really did – namely pacing. This is one of those series that has been consistent and fascinating, but I guess every series has an off book?

When this book opens, Jamison and Decker are visiting Barronville, and Jamison’s sister – Amber, who is living there with her husband Frank and their daughter Zoe. They’ve just moved there for Frank’s work at the Fulfillment Centre, which is an Amazon clone from the sounds of it. It provides work for people in the town, which is in the middle of a opiod epidemic.

It’s there, one night just after they arrive, that Decker finds two dead bodies. From this point on, he and Jamison launch themselves into the investigation of the murders, which quickly actually becomes a case of six murders.

As this case is progressing, Decker bonds with Zoe, Jamison’s 6-year-old  niece after a tragic event. It comes after he is knocked out, and finds his synaesthesia and memory affected again, or to be more accurate, not behaving as it usually does.

I’m not entirely certain whether it’s Zoe or this bump on the head, but he is warmer, bonding with Zoe who reminds him of his own daughter.  Decker himself wonders if it’s that, and if he’s changing again, because he was told by doctors he would indeed change again because of the type of head injury he got. It’s a bit of an axe hovering over him, waiting to fall.

There’s also a level of familiarity between Jamison, almost as if they were an old married couple and not a shall we say, new-work-married couple?

The setting of the Barronville makes for a more intimate story with everyone knowing everyone else, and the urban legends of the town like the Barron treasure. The Barrons are the rich family who created the town several generations ago, but those older generations also destroyed the town when they sold up, and it’s the generations now that are paying the price by bearing the brunt of the townspeople’s anger and frustration. So this should give you a sense of how small and insulated and bound by their frustrations the town is.

However, while the elements above all make for an interesting story, it’s the focus on the fulfilment centre and later on other topics that slow down the narrative immensely. I got the feeling this was a commentary on big businesses, like Amazon, and their effects on small towns, which to be fair is important, but doesn’t make for riveting reading, especially as an information dump in a conversation to set up later elements of the story.

That tactic was repeated later on when it comes to the economics of a small town, as well as the insurance industry – and that’s why this only gets a 3.

An actually interesting murder investigation gets too bogged down in the  minutiae  of big business in this instalment. It’s not my favourite, but I can’t deny I’m not eagerly anticipating the next instalment.

4 Comments

  • Ethan says:

    I’m actually intrigued by the premise of this series, so I’ll have to be on the lookout for book one!

    • Verushka says:

      The first book is brilliant, I loved it so much — I hope you get a chance to read it. I consider this one a blip really in a series of good stuff.

  • Kelly says:

    Ahh, see that’s where it would have fallen down for me as well. I don’t mind discussions of economics and the David and Goliath battle against large companies with a tax aversion but in the middle of a murder investigation seems like an author pushing their own frustrating agenda at the reader. Probably not the best time to work in a few ‘what about the little guy’ rants. I can see why you were frustrated with this one Verushka, hopefully the next book in the series is back on track. Wonderful review! ♡♡♡

  • I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never read one of David Baldacci’s books. I really should at some point, especially since he lives in my state, lol. That’s a bummer that the pacing in this installment was such a let down since the rest of the series actually sounds quite good.

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