David Baldacci: Intriguing mysteries his specialty
David Baldacci is a storyteller whose plots are unusual and whose characters are even more so. The Forgotten is a thriller that most readers of mysteries will enjoy. When I see a Baldacci novel, I know I’m likely to enjoy it. The Forgotten isn’t one of my favorites, but it has much to recommend it.
Baldacci serves up a convoluted, gripping mystery
The plot of the Forgotten is vintage Baldacci; it keeps you on your toes as a reader. The story begins on Florida’s Emerald Coast in a town called Paradise. Is Paradise really paradise? Maybe, and then again, maybe not.
General John Puller, Senior (retired) and living in a Veterans Administration hospital, gets a disquieting letter from his sister Betsy, who has lived in Paradise for many years. Aunt Betsy, who is not inclined to imagine things, seems to think there are suspicious goings-on in Paradise. But she doesn’t give any details, beyond mysterious doings at night, people not being who they seemed.
Although Betsy is in her late years and uses a walker to get around town, her mind is clear, John Puller, Senior tells his son John Puller, Junior, an Army Special Agent. She is, according to Puller, Senior, still sharp and not inclined to fancy. Indeed, she has invested her husband’s life insurance proceeds in Apple and Amazon and is now living comfortably in Paradise on the investment returns. No sign of an impending dementia.
A shock awaits Special Agent Puller
General Puller is concerned enough by Betsy’s letter that he asks his son to find out what is going on in Paradise. Puller the younger makes his way to Paradise, assuming he can clear things up for Aunt Betsy in short order. But that’s not to be. Aunt Betsy cannot give him any of the details he sorely needs in his investigation, nor can she in any way help him. Aunt Betsy has died in what he is told was an accident.
A cast of characters both good and bad, but who knows which?
Baldacci peoples his novels with seemingly improbably characters, which when you get to know them often seem to fit perfectly where their inventor has chosen to place them, doing things that eventually make sense. Following is a playbill that will give you some pertinent details about some of these personalities. You may want to keep this by your side as you read, as a sort of field guide to this story of many twists and turns.
- John Puller, a man who has been in the army for most of his adult life, who lives in a small apartment with minimal furnishings—and whose close friend is a cat, named AWOL. He is trying to forget a recent disastrous ordeal in the line of duty.
- A large, strong and dangerous man who is unnamed through much of the novel.
- Cheryl Landry and Barry Hooper, cops who may be on the side of the angels. Or maybe not.
- Henry Bullock, chief of Paradise police, a man who reminds Puller of his former drill sergeant.
- Diego, a young boy who befriends Puller
- The Storrows, a couple who go to the beach and never come back.
- Jane Ryon, Aunt Betsy’s caregiver.
- Peter J. Lampert, a one-time hedge fund manager, multi-millionaire
- Numerous bit players of differing ages, gender, races
Mysterious goings-on in Paradise, Florida may upset you
What happens in Paradise, its environs, and the bodies of water that surround it will in many ways horrify you. You will wonder, how could such things as these go on in a modern, educated, civilized society such as ours. But Baldacci’s mysteries generally aren’t of the horror variety, and he has managed to avoid any temptation to fall into that trap in this tale. Your imagination will fill in any blanks.
When all is revealed and the mystery solved—that happens slowly and sometimes painfully—you may do as I did and sit for a while, grateful you are where you are and not in the hold of a ship going—well, find out for yourself by reading The Forgotten.
The Forgotten is, in my mind and to my taste, not one of Baldacci’s best
But I would not review it if I didn’t think it was worth reading, with whatever shortcomings it has. Spend some time with The Forgotten. It’s a tale with the kinds of red herrings that will please most mystery readers.
I enjoyed reading The Forgotten. You will too, I suspect.