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Amos Decker came out of college and began to realize his dream of playing in the National Football League. Sadly, the former star linebacker received a dangerous blow to the head on the very first play in which he was involved. Decker sustained serious brain trauma and actually died twice on the field, each time successfully revived in front of the hushed crowd. He obviously survived, but his NFL career was over. One of the unexpected side effects from this trauma was a condition known as hyperthymesia, also known as perfect recall. He now remembers every single thing that has happened in his life since his injury.

Decker's new condition earned him the nickname “Memory Man” from his colleagues in law enforcement, which was the perfect career for someone who literally doesn't miss a clue.  He rose out of his local hometown of Burlington, Ohio, where he was a police detective, and now works with the FBI. The other reason for this move was to get away from the place where his wife and daughter were brutally murdered in a home invasion from which he was unable to protect them as he was knee-deep in another case.

At the beginning of REDEMPTION, we find Decker returning to Burlington, where he still feels drawn to the gravestone of his family, to pay his respects. It is here where a figure from his past who he never expected to see again approaches him. Meryl Hawkins had been sentenced to life imprisonment after a quadruple-homicide that was investigated by Decker and his partner at the time, Mary Lancaster. Hawkins looks unrecognizable mainly because he is perhaps weeks away from dying. He was granted compassionate release due to his terminal cancer diagnosis and has one last deed to accomplish before he leaves this earth. Hawkins urges Decker to look back on his murder conviction as he continues to claim he is innocent and was set up.

"REDEMPTION is an extremely personal story, and the opportunity to spend time with possibly the most unique protagonist in a recurring thriller series is always an eye-opening experience."

There's a quote about midway through the book that I feel sets the tone for the entire story: “...the dead deserve answers, sometimes more than the living.” Decker states this to a fellow detective from Burlington. Mere days after his graveyard meeting with Hawkins, someone puts a bullet in Hawkins’ forehead, killing him in his room at the Residence Inn. Those who have worked with Decker realize that he will not stop until he finds the answers he seeks and, ultimately, justice.

Decker takes a detour from his role with the FBI and his current partner, Alex Jamison, and reaches back out to Mary Lancaster. Mary also does not look well, as the years since he last saw her have taken a toll on her due to poor health and a failing marriage. Decker and Mary begin by going back to the trial that convicted Hawkins. They meet with his defense attorney, Ken Finger, who is not much help as he admits to also believing his client was guilty. The murder in question left behind a father and his two children, as well as a local restaurant owner who happened to be in their home. DNA was found under the fingernails of one of the victims that matched Hawkins. But what if this was a larger setup as Hawkins hinted at? This makes Decker and Mary reexamine the forensics on the case to see if they were legitimate.

At the time of the crime, Hawkins was allegedly scouring the city in search of illegal pain medication for his terminally ill wife. She, like many people in this country, was not sufficiently covered by her own medical plans and needed to seek illegal alternatives. Hawkins also had a daughter named Mitzi, who was a big-time drug addict and is someone Decker needs to speak with. Mitzi is now unrecognizable to anyone who used to know her. Not only has she cleaned herself up, she has married a wealthy man and now looks more like a socialite than a former drug abuser. However, she does not provide much assistance as she shows no interest in helping out her late father.

On the way back to Burlington from Mitzi's home, Decker is rear-ended by a truck. He is only shaken up but now realizes this is no coincidence. In fact, it starts up a chain reaction that runs through nearly the entire novel as any character Decker or his colleagues meet with end up dead. In addition to Mary, Decker calls upon an old friend he had once gotten out of a death row sentence --- another former college football star named Melvin Mars. The body count is piling up, and among the dead are a current detective from the Burlington P.D. and the wife/mother who was not present when her family was murdered, allegedly by Hawkins.

This complex thriller, ably plotted by David Baldacci, exposes a far wider conspiracy that will feel like something taken from a Brad Thor novel. REDEMPTION is an extremely personal story, and the opportunity to spend time with possibly the most unique protagonist in a recurring thriller series is always an eye-opening experience. No one will leave this story unchanged by the revelations and violent events that transpire one after another, making for a fine thriller that will please all of Baldacci's eager readers.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 19, 2019

by David Baldacci

  • Publication Date: October 8, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538761459
  • ISBN-13: 9781538761458