Book Review: Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: Blood Type X, Persephone Smith series, J.L. Delozier

Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Thriller: Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Dr. Persephone “Seph” Smith, FBI profiler, has a box of photos. The pictures are of William Blaine, the most wanted criminal in the world, responsible for the pathogen that killed nearly 50% of the world’s population. She caught him, once, but he escaped, and someone has now sent her a box of photos of him. The clues lead her and her partner first to France, then to the Basque region of Spain, once again on the trail of the evil genius.

 

Author and doctor J.L. Delozier has created a fierce and wonderful heroine in her trilogy of books about Seph Smith. We first met Smith in Storm Shelter, then saw her confront Blaine for the first time in Type and Cross. Now, her battle with Blaine sometimes takes second place to her battle with her own demons. Too many losses, too many bodies, have sent Smith to seek refuge in alcohol. It may numb the nightmares, but it does not remove either the pain that haunts her or the criminal that awaits her. Seph has a heightened sense of empathy. She is able to sense the emotions of others–which in a time of catastrophic death is an almost crippling challenge. This gives her an advantage in developing a profile of criminals, but can make it difficult living her daily life.

 

Delozier’s medical experience informs her writing without making it overly technical or dry. She never forgets her plot or her characters when dropping in details about the reactions to chemo drugs and other medical details. I will admit to wondering at one point whether she had either witnessed a taser or possibly experienced one herself (no doubt in the desire to get the details correct and not from any unfortunate interactions with the police).

 

Her descriptions of the settings are also vivid. Whether she has actually visited the areas in her books or has successfully used her research to picture the locations in her mind, she effectively lets the reader see France and Spain through her writing.

 

Delozier is a local author and one of the leaders of the Nittany Valley Writers Network (State College, Pennsylvania). She is also a friend of ours. That being said, we only review books we like–even when friends write them. We like this book.

 

A flawed but triumphant heroine. A brilliant and psychopathic enemy. The beauty of Europe. J.L. Delozier’s latest thriller has it all. Read all three of the books to get Seph Smith’s full story, and enjoy.

 

J.L. Delozier will be at State College’s 2019 PA Bookfest on Saturday, July 13, 2019. This week we are featuring authors who will be part of the bookfest, part of an annual tradition we started last year celebrating authors who are from our local area.

 

Also see:

Book Review: Type and Cross, Persephone Smith series, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: Storm Shelter, Persephone Smith seriesJ.L. Delozier

 

Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: The Swimmer, Joakim Zander

Book Review: The Swimmer, Joakim Zander

 

The Swimmer, Joakim Zander

Thriller: The Swimmer, Joakim Zander

A young mother, killed in an explosion meant for her deep cover CIA lover. Their baby, left on the steps of the Swedish embassy. A man, tortured for decades by the decisions he made back then. That is the backdrop for Joakim Zander’s powerful thriller, The Swimmer.

 

The Swimmer is an unnamed operative who likes to swim. During a mission to Damascus in the mid 1980s, he falls in love and has a child with a Swedish woman. She is killed in a car bomb that was meant for him. Not certain how best to protect their child, he leaves the baby at the Swedish embassy with a note telling them how to place her with her grandparents in Sweden. Thinking he has covered his tracks, he returns to Washington and to his life as a spy. But he never forgets the child and tries to keep an eye out for her from a distance, hoping to protect her from his dangerous life.

 

Perhaps it’s genetics, but Klara manages to find her own danger. An ex-boyfriend gets drawn into an international conspiracy and asks for her help. When she agrees, she finds herself going across Europe, from Brussels to Paris to Amsterdam and finally home to Sweden, barely staying one step ahead of those who want her dead for reasons she doesn’t understand. Along the way she finds help from some unlikely sources: a lover who failed to mention to her that he was married, a stoner teenaged hacker, an old friend who runs moonshine, a college roommate who has become a lawyer, a corrupt lobbyist who is caught up in the same conspiracy against his will, and the father she never knew.

 

Zander’s book shifts from the first-person of the never-named swimmer to third-person narratives of other characters in the story. Somehow the author manages to make these shifts appear seamless, changing voices and perspectives smoothly and clearly. Zander also treats violence as an ugly reality. When people die in this book (and they do), it is not clean or neat or tidy. It is messy and terrifying and ugly and disturbing. One character has to vomit after committing an act of violence against another character. Guilt and sorrow and anger and panic follow the acts of violence. I love that a thriller author actually gets how an ordinary person would react to violence. Too often it seems that violence in thrillers is only told from the perspective of professionally violent people: soldiers or police or spies. But it is the very ordinariness of the characters that makes this book feel very real.

 

Zander is not an American, so don’t look for the typical American heroes here. This is not your Jack Ryan saves the world thriller. This is a darker view of American power, where there are good guys and bad guys and it is not always clear which are which or whether the good guys are actually all that good. But that’s probably a more realistic view of how the world actually works. We don’t live in an era with easy answers and clear distinctions, and it’s only fair that fiction follows life in that regard.

 

The Swimmer is a taut and fascinating thriller with well conceived characters and surprising twists. I look forward to reading more from this author.

 

If you like this review, also see:

Book Review: American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson

 

 

The Swimmer, Joakim Zander

Book Review: The Swimmer, Joakim Zander

 

Book Review: American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson

Book Review: American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson

American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson

Thriller: American Spy , Lauren Wilkinson

American Spy is one of the deepest, most profound books I have ever read dealing with race, gender, imperialism, and American identity. Lauren Wilkinson has managed to weigh in on numerous deep and profound topics while weaving a tale of spycraft that stands its ground against thrillers that follow more formulaic plots.

 

Marie Mitchell is a single mother raising twin boys. One night a stranger breaks into their suburban home. Marie kills the stranger, but we quickly discover that she has been anticipating this possibility for years. She takes her boys, flees to her mother’s home on the island of Martinique, and begins writing a journal which is the content of the novel.

 

We follow Marie’s relationship with her parents, her older sister Helene who died years earlier, Marie’s career in the FBI, and her recruitment and missions for the CIA. We find out who the boys’ father was, we meet Marie’s lifelong friend (and occasional boyfriend) Robbie, and her father’s friend Mr. Ali. And in the process we read about the rise of an early military contractor, the mixed feelings of African Americans when working for instruments of their oppression like the FBI, and the casual sexism and homophobia that permeated institutions in the 1980s (and clearly still does far too often still today).

 

I really liked this book, in part because it was challenging to read. Wilkinson does not shy away from tough topics and she is willing to delve into them in depth and with solid background. Sometimes this can sidetrack the story, but it is necessary and the author puts it to good use. I love the opportunity to look through different eyes at the world. Marie is African American, female, and definitely provides this white male reader with that different perspective.

 

I also love the open ending of the book. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so all I will say is that the book ends with the chance for the reader to decide what happens next–or, hopefully, the opportunity for the author to write a sequel letting us know what happens next in Marie’s life.

 

Marie is a challenging protagonist, fascinating and sometimes unlikeable. Principled, but willing to reinterpret those principles when new information becomes available. Courageous, bold, and yet willing to admit she is afraid, but unwilling to be stopped by her fear. Motivated by love, love for her sister, love for her boys, love for their father. Marie is someone you’d love to meet and fear to cross.

 

American Spy is unlike any other novel I have read. It is powerful, breaks with convention, tells a thrilling spy story but wraps within it powerful social commentary. Read it while wearing a crash helmet. You’ll be glad you did.

 

American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson

Book Review: American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson

Book Review: Tom Clancy Oath of Office, Marc Cameron

Book Review: Tom Clancy Oath of Office, Marc Cameron

Book Review: Tom Clancy Oath of Office, Marc Cameron

I have to admit, Tom Clancy novels have been a guilty pleasure of mine for about 30 years. Recent years have seen the stories picked up by new authors, including Marc Cameron, a retired Chief Deputy US Marshal with more than 30 years law enforcement experience and the author of the Jericho Quinn thriller series. His latest, Oath of Office, carries the hallmarks of the traditional Tom Clancy Jack Ryan books: formidable enemies at home and abroad, daring intelligence and military personnel ready to give their lives in service to America, and timely fortune favoring the bold actions of one President Jack Ryan.

 

Cameron takes full advantage of the Clancy company of stars: President Jack Ryan; Jack Ryan, Jr.; John Clark; Ding Chavez; Mary Pat Kelly; Arnie Van Damm; Dom Caruso; etc. He also brings back an old character, Ysabel Kashani, a former girlfriend of Jack Ryan, Jr.’s, who is not very happy with the way their relationship ended. And he introduces us to new characters, some who do not survive the novel and others who may be heard from again later.

 

Enemies include old foes Russia and Iran, new challenges from Cameroon and unknown cyber criminals, and an angry senator on the domestic front. Balancing these multiple foes is a challenge for President Ryan and his team. It is also a challenge for author Cameron, but one he handles adroitly. The action shifts quickly from chapter to chapter, from Washington to Tehran to Moscow to Portugal and other places, shifting perspective from the president to his son to the bad guys to other characters. With less care this could become confusing, but Cameron clearly introduces each chapter without being clunky.

 

Cameron can be criticized for the role women play in the novel. It is definitely a book where the men are men and the women are injured or rescued. The female with the most agency is an enemy assassin. This is typical of the Clancy novels, and indeed probably the majority of novels in the thriller genre. Still, Oath of Office is an improvement over some in the genre (and even some in the Clancy canon) where women are little more than sexual objects. Given that the heroes of the series will always be Jack Ryan and Jack Ryan, Jr., women will probably always be secondary characters. Cameron does include numerous minor characters of color, and should be commended for giving us Iranian and Russian characters with some complexity and not universally opposed to the US. Still, there is much room for improvement in the use of both female characters and characters of color.

 

Still, this is a fun book. For Clancy fans it brings back the usual team, returns an old ally, and introduces new characters who may see future action. Cameron is a good writer and creates a complex and engaging plot. Thriller fans will not be disappointed.

Book Review: Tom Clancy Oath of Office, Marc Cameron

Book Review: Out of the Dark, Gregg Hurwitz

Book Review: Out of the Dark, Orphan X series, Book 4, Gregg Hurwitz

 

Out of the Dark, Orphan X series, Book 4, Gregg Hurwitz

Thriller: Out of the Dark, Orphan X series, Book 4, Gregg Hurwitz

Some thrillers are an adrenaline rush fueled by espresso. Those tame tomes blink in awe at the Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz. Out of the Dark demands to be read in one sitting, all 385 pages of it, and frankly if lead character Evan Smoak demands something I do not have the courage to argue the point. After reading it, I dare not take my blood pressure. I don’t want to know.

 

Orphan X has become one of those series that I will drop everything to read as soon as I can. The latest, Out of the Dark, was published on January 29, 2019, and I hate that it took me almost a month to get to it. Whether I had grabbed it in January, though, or waited until now (late February), the book was well worth it.

 

If you have followed the series, you know that Evan Smoak was taken from his foster home at age 12 and placed into a beyond top secret program to train black operatives. He eventually broke with his handlers and became the Nowhere Man, committed to helping people who could not help themselves. Now, the president of the United States, the man who used to run the Orphan program, has decided that all of the remaining Orphans must die. His sights are set first on Orphan X, Evan Smoak, primarily because of Smoak’s participation in a 1997 assassination. Smoak does not know why that particular mission is so meaningful to the president. He only knows this: he must kill the president before the president can have him killed.

 

Being an Orphan X thriller, though, Evan must also deal with his increasingly complicated feelings for his beautiful neighbor Mia and her young son Peter. And with a Nowhere Man plea for help from a mentally challenged young man whose family is murdered. And with the reappearance of Orphan V, Candy, who has tried to kill him many times. And a side trip to Switzerland to visit the young girl he is protecting, another former orphan program member who is a world class computer hacker.

 

It’s enough to make anyone thirst for some vodka. The expensive stuff. Which is the only kind that Evan drinks.

 

Average thrillers rely on plot twists and fast-paced action to take you through the story. Excellent thrillers have those as well, but add in sympathetic and complex characters that act in very human ways. Evan, Mia, Candy, and new character Naomi provide all of these variables. Even Orphan A, brought in specifically to kill Evan, has a backstory that lends substance to his anger.

 

Hurwitz has written many books, but with his Orphan X series Hurwitz has stepped into the top echelon of thriller writers. If you are not reading this series, start with Orphan X and catch up. Each one is better than the last, and this is a series that seems to have the legs to go for a long time.

 

See our — Book Review: HellbentGregg Hurwitz

 

Out of the Dark, Orphan X series, Book 4, Gregg Hurwitz

 

Book Review: Out of the Dark, Orphan X series, Book 4, Gregg Hurwitz

Book Review: Long Road to Mercy, David Baldacci

Book Review: Long Road to Mercy, An Atlee Pine Thriller, David Baldacci

Long Road to Mercy, David Baldacci

Thriller: Long Road to MercyAn Atlee Pine Thriller, David Baldacci

 

Atlee Pine is an FBI agent. Resident Agent in the Shattered Rock office, serving a large swath of territory in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, she is actually the sole FBI agent in the region that includes part of the Grand Canyon. She is also a former competitive weight lifter having just missed the Athens Olympics, and the survivor of a childhood encounter with a killer, an encounter that her twin sister, Mercy, did not survive. Long Road to Mercy is a multilayered story about an agent whose past has shaped her present, and taught her some lessons she will need to use if she is to see her future.

 

Being the sole FBI agent means you get called in for a number of different things. Nothing could have prepared her for the crime that takes her to the Grand Canyon. There she is shown the body of…a mule. Not the drug smuggling kind, but the actual horse-donkey hybrid used as pack and transport animals in the canyon. Someone has killed a mule and carved the letters “J” and “K” into its side. A hiker is missing also, which is bad and may be related, but much less unusual.

 

Still, it would not be a Baldacci thriller if the action stopped with a dead animal. Even a dead mule.

 

Pine’s search for the missing hiker, the reason for the mule’s death, and the reason why upper echelons within her own agency and other federal agencies want this case to go away lead her across the country to Washington, D.C., and back again. Accompanied by her no-nonsense secretary, a grandmother who carries a gun and an attitude, Atlee pursues the truth despite the increasing danger to herself and the increasing awareness that some members of the government will stop at nothing to hush this up.

 

Baldacci has created a badass heroine in this novel. Pine knows how to use a gun, knows how to use her fists and her feet, and is as strong as most men. One thing I liked, though, is that her toughness is consistent with her character. There are times when she needs to be rescued–not because she is a woman, but because anyone in the situation would need a hand. Most of the time, though, she is the one charging in to save the day.

 

I enjoy the thriller genre, and Baldacci is one of my favorite authors. His stories have the action, the high level of intrigue from power players working behind the scenes, the unlikely hero (or in this case heroine) working against all odds to save the world, and just enough mystery to keep it interesting through the end. Baldacci knows we are in a time (2018) when the FBI is being publicly challenged and its agents under greater scrutiny than is usually the case, and much of that scrutiny is politically motivated. He uses these current realities in the plot, but also uses them to show that although FBI agents are human, they are also dedicated professionals whose love for country and love for the law has led them to take an often dangerous and thankless job.

 

Long Road to Mercy introduces a new protagonist to the Baldacci canon, and she is up to the task. Atlee Pine is a great character, the other characters in the book make a great team, and I hope she has many more adventures to come in pages of future books.

 

See our — Book Review: The FallenDavid Baldacci

 

Long Road to Mercy, David Baldacci

Book Review: Long Road to Mercy, David Baldacci

Book Review: The Fifth to Die, J.D. Barker

Book Review: The Fifth to Die, J.D. Barker

0544973976

Fiction Mystery/Thriller: The Fifth to Die, J.D. Barker

 

He’s ba-a-ack!

 

Considering the cover of the book says this is a “4MK Thriller,” I’m not giving too much away by saying that The Fifth to Die, J.D. Barker’s sequel to The Fourth Monkey, features the return of Detective Sam Porter and his white whale, Anson Bishop, also known as the Fourth Monkey Killer or 4MK. Detective Porter and his team have been pulled off the hunt for 4MK when a body is found in a frozen lake. The body is that of a young girl who has been missing for a couple of weeks…but she is found under the ice, dressed in the clothes of a girl who disappeared just that morning. Chicago immediately fears that 4MK is back to his old tricks, but Porter believes this to be the work of someone else. Serial killers tend to have a unique style, and this murder does not fit the pattern of 4MK. As the body count climbs and the mystery deepens, the question persists: does this have anything to do with 4MK?

 

The hunt for the killer (or killers) expands beyond Chicago, reaching first to New Orleans and then to North Carolina. Bishop is back, but what if anything does he have to do with these new deaths? Why has he sent a picture of a mystery woman to Detective Porter, a woman being held in jail in New Orleans? What clues remain in his diary? And can they catch him in time to prevent whatever plans he has made from coming to fruition?

 

Barker has taken the loose threads remaining from The Fourth Monkey and woven them together to create a new and even more involved story. Tension mounts throughout the book. As the view shifts from detective to victim to killer, we learn more about the mysterious Anson Bishop. But each new revelation brings more questions. By the end of the book we see some mysteries solved. Many more, though, remain tantalizingly unresolved. Bishop remains free to wreak more mayhem. Porter has lost him again. His team is in desperate straits. And the reader, at least this reader, is left with nightmares about an elusive killer and a very satisfying thriller.

 

In just two books, J.D. Barker has become one of my favorite thriller writers. The Fifth to Die could be read by itself. Enough backstory is given that it stands on its own. But it will be more satisfying to read the two books in order. Just, don’t start them if you need to get some sleep. You will have trouble putting either of them down.

 

Again, a warning to more sensitive readers. There are violent scenes depicted in The Fifth to Die. If that sort of thing bothers you, this is not the book for you. And it is not a book I would recommend to children or tweens. The victims in the book include teenagers, which may make the violence even more disturbing to some. For the genre it is not particularly violent, but the thriller genre can be violent and Barker does not shy away from the grittier aspects of his subject.

0544973976

Book Review: The Fifth to Die, J. D. Barker

Book Review: The Fourth Monkey: J.D. Barker

Book Review: The Fourth MonkeyJ.D. Barker

1328915395

Fiction Mystery/Thriller: The Fourth Monkey, J.D. Barker

Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. Most of us are familiar with the three monkeys and their advice, often depicted with actual images of monkeys covering eyes, ears, and mouth. J.D. Barker’s book tells us about The Fourth Monkey: do no evil. But the monkey in his book does all kinds of evil. He is a serial killer, nicknamed the Fourth Monkey Killer, and time is running out for his latest victim. WARNING: if you have a weak stomach or tender constitution, stop reading and find a different book. The book (and consequently this review) do have descriptions that might upset some readers.

 

Detective Sam Porter has been hunting 4MK for over five years. It looks like they have finally caught a break when a pedestrian killed by a bus is found to be carrying a box wrapped in the distinctive style of the killer. Every previous victim was preceded by the delivery of three carefully wrapped boxes. The first contained the victim’s ear. The second, the victim’s eyes. The third, her tongue. Finally, some days later, the victim herself, always a young woman, would be found. This box contained a young woman’s ear. The man himself also had a diary in his pocket, one that told a grisly tale about a young man growing up in a house of horrors.

 

As Porter and his fellow detectives follow the clues, they start with several unanswered questions. Was the dead man really 4MK? Whose ear was in the box? And, most importantly, where was she? If indeed her kidnapper is dead, she only has a couple of days before dying of thirst. This urgency presses the team to follow every lead, even when those leads come dangerously close to the wealthy and politically connected elite of Chicago.

 

The Fourth Monkey shifts perspective often, usually between Detective Porter and the diary of 4MK. As the stories unfold, we realize that Detective Porter is carrying a great burden, one that inevitably affects his ability to follow the killer’s trail. And we realize that the diary is being told from the perspective of the serial killer–how much of its narrative is reliable? Meanwhile, a girl’s life hangs in the balance.

 

The Fourth Monkey is one of the best thrillers I have ever read. The police procedural rings true. The officers are dedicated, not perfect but not corrupt, frustrated at times with red tape but concerned about following procedure so that the result is a clean arrest and conviction, not to mention rescuing the missing girl. The diary never brought this reader to the point of sympathizing with the serial killer, but it made it easier to imagine how someone might lose his grip on appropriate choices when confronted with a distorted childhood. Of course, it is possible the diary was entirely a fiction within the fictional book–that is a possible interpretation that the author leaves for his readers to consider. All in all, a very well told story that leaves room for many of the characters to return again.

 

Barker tells a story that is both compelling and chilling. He does a superb job of leaving small clues in the story which later bloom into full reveals. There were several times when I realized that “something” was about to happen, only to realize that Barker had left enough clues for my subconscious to go into overdrive but not enough for me to fully figure it out ahead of time. And Barker leaves just enough in the cupboard that even on the final page there is a surprise for the reader. It makes this reader quite eager to see what else this writer has in store for his audience. Despite the occasional gore and graphic detail, The Fourth Monkey is a book I highly recommend to any fans of the thriller or police procedural genres.

 

1328915395

Book Review: The Fourth MonkeyJ.D. Barker

Book Review: Hellbent, Gregg Hurwitz

Book Review: HellbentGregg Hurwitz

Hellbent, Gregg Hurwitz

Fiction Thriller: Hellbent, Gregg Hurwitz

Third book in the Orphan X series, following Orphan X and The Nowhere Man

A couple of years ago a fascinating book caught my attention. A thriller about a former government wet-ops agent who now worked secretly helping people who were in desperate situations, Orphan X was well written, had an interesting protagonist and strong secondary characters, and told a compelling story. Its sequel, The Nowhere Man, continued the story in riveting fashion, filling in backstory and introducing new characters to the series.

 

The third in the series came out earlier this year, and it is a thriller reader’s dream come true. Hellbent is one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year. I finished it in a five-hour straight shot. I made the mistake of starting it after traveling all weekend, and could not put it down. From beginning to end, Gregg Hurwitz takes the reader on a ride that had me gripping the edge of the book with white knuckles. The first two books in this series were excellent, but this takes the series to a new level.

 

Evan Smoak is Orphan X, part of a top secret program that recruited orphans who showed certain useful characteristics into a black ops training program. He was possibly the best of the “orphans,” brilliant, resourceful, and ruthless. His trainer, though, had become like a father to him, and as a father he taught Evan not only how to be a killer, but also how to be a human. Evan was raised with a code, commandments that his trainer instilled within him. “Do not kill innocents” was part of that code, a part that eventually led to Evan leaving the program and disappearing off the grid–which in his case was Los Angeles.

 

When Evan’s arch-enemy Orphan Y, the new head of the Orphan program, finds Evan’s trainer and kills him, Evan has a new mission: kill Orphan Y. First, though, he must decipher his trainer’s final message to him. That message leads to a most unexpected package: a teenage girl who was also trying to escape from the Orphan program. Suddenly, the Nowhere Man has responsibilities that go beyond a mere mission. Orphan Y wants to kill her, too. How can Evan keep her alive, go after Orphan Y and his group of killers, and deal with the trauma and drama of a teenager? The result is a fast paced and action filled novel with twists and turns that go beyond the core “how does our hero survive and complete his mission” of all thrillers. It includes the shock and awe of a shopping trip to Target to purchase “female products.” It includes learning how to listen, how to open up, how to become vulnerable without losing his edge. It includes asking a mother for advice on talking to a young girl. And before you know it, you realize you’ve read a complete novel with the requisite body count of a high octane thriller, but with an unexpected and delightful emotional depth that is rare in this genre.

 

Hellbent checks the boxes for a thriller. But what makes it next level is the emotional growth of the characters. We see new sides to some familiar characters. We see Evan needing help and reaching out for it, and we see others stepping up for him. We see a young girl, traumatized and alone, make informed choices that define who she is and who she will become. Throughout we see that characters define themselves by their own choices, who make emotionally difficult decisions that can cost them everything, who confront themselves and challenge themselves to become more than they have been. Hurwitz spins a great story, but more delightfully he draws great characters. Orphan X books will stay on my reading list because of those characters, and I cannot wait to find out what Evan Smoak faces in the next novel of the series.

 

See our — Book Review: Out of the Dark, Orphan X series, Book 4, Gregg Hurwitz

Hellbent, Gregg Hurwitz

 

Book Review: HellbentGregg Hurwitz

Book Review: The Escape Artist, Brad Meltzer

Book Review: The Escape ArtistBrad Meltzer

The Escape Artist, Brad Meltzer

Mystery/Thriller: The Escape ArtistBrad Meltzer

 

The Escape Artist is Brad Meltzer’s latest thriller. Coming twenty years after The Tenth Justice, his new work shows a greater familiarity with his craft and introduces some interesting characters as well.

 

Jim “Zig” Zigarowski is a mortician at Dover (DE) Air Force Base. Preparing deceased military service personnel for burial is his job, and he is quite good at it. Usually the deceased are strangers, but when a young woman who knew his daughter dies in a plane crash, Zig insists on taking care of her himself. However, the body on his table is not that of Nola Brown, and the mix up is not accidental. Zig begins looking for Nola, and soon finds himself in the midst of a mystery that takes him back to his Pennsylvania hometown, to Washington, DC, and back again to Dover. His journey uncovers secrets and crimes that some very powerful people would rather keep covered, and reopens some wounds within him that he thought were closed.

 

Nola Brown was supposed to be on that plane, but switched places at the last minute. She suspects the plane crash was meant to kill her. Instead, it killed her friend and several other people, including the Librarian of Congress, who was a close personal friend of the president. She is eager to get to the bottom of things, too, but she also must confront both external enemies and internal memories to solve this mystery.

 

Zig and Nola share part of their history, connected through Jim’s late daughter. Still, they do not really know each other. Part of their challenge is learning to trust each other and work together. This journey may cover more ground, metaphorically, than the two must cover in their search to find out who was behind the fatal plane crash.

 

Brad Meltzer is a prolific and popular writer. He has had best selling books in many categories, including novels, advice, childrens, YA, and non-fiction. He is also the host of two shows airing on the History Channel networks.

 

The Escape Artist is an interesting and engaging book featuring a strong heroine. Parts of it are formulaic, and the characters flaws sometimes overcome their features, but overall the effect is positive. Definitely a great book for fans of Brad Meltzer and for fans of the thriller genre, and not a bad introduction to the genre for those who like to see smart, tough women overcome challenging circumstances. Unlike many thrillers, The Escape Artist does not use women as mere foils for the male characters. Nola has her own brokenness, her own issues, and she is truly a co-protagonist with Zig. Neither of them survives this case without the other, and both of them are changed by the other.

 

See our – Book Review: The Tenth JusticeBrad Meltzer

 

The Escape Artist, Brad Meltzer

Book Review: The Escape ArtistBrad Meltzer