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The Inner Circle

Meltzer’s latest, but not greatest

Created date

March 22nd, 2011

Conspiracy and murder have been staple features of an exciting plot since the dawn of literature. William Shakespeare used them to great effect in Macbeth and Julius Caesar, as did Alexander Dumas in the Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask. Little has changed. To this day, tales of duplicitous intrigues are irresistible to those bookworms addicted to the thrill and suspense of a mystery that unfolds with each turn of the page. As a reader, Brad Meltzer has this same insatiable appetite, and as a bestselling novelist, he makes sure that no one goes hungry. Best known for fast-paced thrillers built around government corruption and the mystique of secret societies, Meltzer is no stranger to the New York Times hallowed sales list. Over the last 13 years, he s penned seven bestsellers, including The Millionaires (2002) and The Book of Fate (2006). His latest novel, The Inner Circle (Grand Central Publishing, 2011), brings the total to eight.

Intrigue in our nation s capital

The story follows Beecher White, a young archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Here he works with some of the U.S. government s most important documents historical gems like military pardons signed by Abraham Lincoln and Richard Nixon s resignation letter. In doing so, he is a custodian of the pages that tell America s story. But the relative quiet of this life comes to an abrupt end after he finds a 200-year-old dictionary hidden in an Archives vault reserved for the President of the United States. The discovery leads to his friend s murder and sends White on a frantic pursuit of the mysterious book s origins. His search soon reveals the dictionary s connection to a series of coded messages and a secret order that will stop at nothing to guard their contents.

Tantalizing but talky

Conceptually, Meltzer s story is tantalizing. The idea of national secrets hidden between the lines of America s most cherished documents is a solid foundation for a good mystery. Unfortunately, Meltzer fails to capitalize on this. In many respects the finished product comes off as underdeveloped and difficult to follow. Made up almost entirely of dialogue, the book contains little of the descriptive narrative that adds dimension to the people and places in the story. This, along with an endless string of plot twists and a weak resolution, will leave those familiar with Meltzer s work wondering what happened. His past novels prove that he s clearly capable of telling a great story. That leaves hope that this latest volume is not a sign of books to come. michael.williams@erickson.com

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