Exceptional Characters Make Exceptional Reading

The book’s cover red color plus the unusual cut out of an upside-down dog caught my attention more than once while perusing the shelves of Tanglewood’s library.  So glad I finally gave in and read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) by Mark Haddon.

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world, their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057.  He also is quite sure that Wellington has been murdered.

Wellington is a big poodle with curly black hair and belongs to Mrs. Shear who lives across the street from Christopher.  He feels certain it was a murder because a garden rake is sticking out of the dog.

Christopher pulls the rake out of Wellington and picks the dog up in his arms.  Of course, this is the very moment Mrs. Shears comes out of her home and begins screaming.  Christopher is covered in blood and immediately becomes a suspect.  The police are called.  Before the night is over, a policeman has been assaulted and Christopher is taken to jail.

All of this action is recorded in the murder mystery novel Christopher is writing about the incident.   One of his teachers, Siobhan offers suggestions for writing his book, such as grabbing the reader’s attention.  Christopher took her advice and begins his novel with the murder of the dog.

Christopher numbers his book chapters with prime numbers instead of the usual cardinal numbers such as 1, 2, 3.   If the thought of prime numbers makes you a bit nervous about reading this novel, keep calm and continue reading.  It is one special book about one exceptional young man.

Christopher views the world quite literally.  He finds people very confusing because they talk without words, using gestures and/or facial expressions.  They also use metaphors when speaking which he does not understand.

Even though his father told him to stay out of other people’s business, Christopher is determined to find out who killed Wellington.  Thus, begins Christopher’s detective work.

It took a lot of thought because Christopher does not like talking to strangers.  After thinking things through Christopher draws a map of his street.  Then, with his Swiss Army knife in his pocket, he begins to question those living on his street.  Using this method of detecting Christopher comes across information not only about his neighbors and possible suspects, but some details that seem to pertain to his personal life.

All of his efforts led to a huge fight with his father.  As a result of that argument, Christopher made an unplanned train trip to London, used the Underground, experienced escalators, and lost Toby, his pet rat.  But, Christopher made the trip on his own.

So, so much more lies within the pages of this bright red book with the upside-down dog on the cover.  It is touching, it is funny, it is educational on many levels, and fascinating as the reader spends time with Christopher John Francis Boone.  You will come away a better person.  NB:  During heated moments in the book harsh language may be used.

From one exceptional character to another in David Baldacci’s The Last Mile (2016). The opening setting takes the reader to Texas State Penitentiary, the oldest prison in the state.  This is where you meet 6’2” Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Mars, #7-4-7.  Melvin is on death row because he had been accused of and found guilty of murdering his parents, Roy and Lucinda Mars.  Just moments before his walk down “the last mile”, Melvin heard the words, “There’s been an unexpected development in your case.  Your execution has been called off.”

Enter another big man.  6’5” Amos Decker, weighing in at 300-400 pounds, also a former football player who did make it to the NFL albeit for a very short stint.

Amos took a vicious hit in his first pro game on the first play.  That hit changed the way his brain normally functioned.  Now, he lives with a perfect memory which turns out to be not that great of an asset.  Amos has something he would rather not recall.

Decker has headed to Virginia to join a group of FBI agents and civilians with special skills.  Their job is to reopen and solve cold cases.  It was while on his drive to Quantico that he heard the news report about Melvin Mars receiving a last-minute reprieve.  Decker’s mind went back to a time when their paths crossed on the college football field.  In fact, Decker did not stop to sleep.  Thoughts of Melvin Mars kept him awake.

Decker does not bother to settle in upon his arrival at his small apartment in Quantico.  He went straight to work searching info about Melvin Mars and anything he could find, including Mars’ parents, details of the murder and why Mars was a suspect.

Besides FBI Special Agent Ross Bogart and Decker, the team is comprised of journalist Alex Jamison, Lisa Davenport, a clinical psychologist out of Chicago and Todd Milligan.  Amos and Todd did not hit it off at their first meeting.  The team voted take on the Melvin Mars case even though it was not on the case list.

Mary Oliver, Melvin’s attorney, shows up when Decker comes to the hospital where Melvin has been sent after a beating the prison just before his release.  Alex is also part of the meeting as Amos listens and questions Mars about the night his parents were killed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the character Amos Decker.  He does not fit the usual description of detectives we have gotten used to in novels and movies.  Think of him more an anti-hero if such a thing exists.  He is likeable and at the same time, frustrating for those who work with him.  Melvin Mars is also quite likeable.  You will most likely be cheering for him as your read.

Several other characters are woven into the storyline.  Plenty of secrets, plotting and nasty characters are within the pages of this thriller.  You will find yourself not wanting to take a break from reading.

The Last Mile is the second in Baldacci’s Amos Decker Series and can be read and enjoyed without having read the first, Memory Man.  In fact, I read the third title, The Fix, before I finally got my hands on the first.

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