A Book Spy Review: ‘The Last Mile’ by David Baldacci

With a plethora of bestselling series to his name, and at least ten standalone novels, David Baldacci might be the biggest name writing fiction today. From The Camel Club series and King and Maxwell, to John Puller and Will Robie, Baldacci has no shortage of ideas or characters–which is evident once again with his newest series about a man named Amos Decker. 

Decker is unlike any of Baldacci’s other characters, made unique by an extremely rare neurological condition called hyperthymesia–the result of a crushing helmet-to-helmet hit on the football field, which makes it impossible for Amos to forget anything. 

While the idea of being able to vividly remember everything sounds awesome at first, in Decker’s case it’s also a curse.

Nearly twenty years after his NFL career ended, Decker, now a police detective, returned home to find his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law brutally murdered. Unable to forget even the smallest of details from that night, he’s haunted and tortured by the loss of his family every single day. Those events take place in Baldacci’s previous novel, Memory Man, which came out last year–but also play a role in this year’s The Last Mile.

Note: While reading Memory Man will provide more insight and a deeper understanding of who Amos Decker is, it’s not necessary for understanding the plot of The Last Mile

The Story

Melvin Mars, nicknamed “Jumbo” by prison guards because he happens to be inmate number 7-4-7, is awaiting the death penalty after being convicted of murdering his father and mother nearly two decades prior. At the time, Mars was a Heisman Trophy finalist, and the top-ranked running back leading up to the NFL Draft. He had his whole life and career in front of him. 

Then it was gone.

Now, Mars has made peace with his life and the fact that it was soon coming to an end. A creature of habit, he still maintains his body by performing a strict and grueling workout routine each day in his cell. On the night of his execution, Mars planned to walk what’s known as ‘the last mile,’ which is actually just thirty feet, to the execution chamber with his head held high. He tells himself dying will be just like going to sleep, without ever waking up. He’s no longer afraid, but rather he’s accepted his fate… and then a miracle happens. 

Just before his execution is scheduled to begin, officials escort him from his small Texas cell to a much bigger room. There, Mars is informed that a man on death row in Alabama has confessed to murdering Mars’ parents. But before his confession can exonerate Mars, an investigation must first confirm the man’s claims. Until then, Melvin Mars has to go back to his cell and wait. 

Amos Decker has just taken a job with the FBI to serve on a newly assembled team of agents and civilians with unique traits who, together, will re-open and investigate cold cases. He’s still in the process of moving to the East Coast when he first hears about Mars’ situation in Texas and immediately remembers the former Texas Longhorn from his own playing days at Ohio State University. 

Furthermore, Decker is intrigued by several parallels between himself and Mars: Both were collegiate football players for major universities, both had their playing careers cut short, both had their lives ruined after their families were murdered, and in both cases, someone came forward to confess to the killings after an extended period of time. 

After he was settled into his new apartment and met his team members, Decker lobbied hard for them to take a look into Mars’ case, which they do. The investigation seems straightforward enough until one of the team members turns up missing as a result of their poking around. Soon things begin to unravel as Decker races to answer a series of questions, including who might want to help free Melvin Mars, and why. 

The Last Mile is a serious step up from last year’s Memory Man, which I personally didn’t love. While I still prefer both Will Robie and John Puller, I have to admit that Baldacci has progressed and developed Amos Decker quite well in his second book, and I’m very intrigued to see where he takes the character next. 

Why I loved it

Because I wasn’t so high on Memory Man, I started this book thinking I probably wouldn’t really get into it. Instead, I found myself thoroughly drawn into the characters and the plot. I enjoy Baldacci’s writing and am a huge fan of his Will Robie series, so in hindsight, it was stupid to doubt him coming into this book. He definitely did a lot to add layers to Decker, which makes him more compelling and interesting to follow.  

Also, I know they say to “never judge a book by its cover,” but the cover for The Last Mile is fantastic! Seriously, this is a great-looking, attractive cover with rich colors and an appealing design. If that’s the kind of thing that matters to you, this will look great on your shelf. 

Why you should read it

David Baldacci has sold more than 110 million copies of his books around the world. That doesn’t happen by luck, accident, or chance–he’s one of the most famous and bestselling novelists alive today for a reason. He has a ton of talent, with little to no weaknesses in his writing. Solid from top to bottom, with a near-perfect understanding of how to tell a story, Baldacci is a blistering force in the world of thrillers. 

If you aren’t reading his stuff, you should be! 

Book Details

Author: David Baldacci

Pages: 431 (Hardcover)

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing 

Release Date: April 19, 2016 (Click here to order!)

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