Book Review – The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

19 05 2011

The Inner Circle

Brad Meltzer

Grand Central Publishing

In stores now

If there’s one thing Brad Meltzer loves, it’s secrets. Or more accurately, he loves exposing secrets. Whether it’s one of his best-selling novels or his History Channel TV series, Meltzer makes a living delving into the past and exploring mysteries. Many of his stories have centered around Washington, DC, and the many secrets and cover-ups that have helped the powerful denizens of our Capital rise to the top. This story is no different. In his latest novel, “The Inner Circle,” Meltzer once again spins a fast-moving tale full of cover-ups and lies, leaving the reader and characters wondering who they can really trust.

The hero of the story, Beecher White, is a young archivist who works with some of the most important documents in our country’s history as an employee of the National Archives. When childhood crush Clementine Kaye shows up at the archives looking for help tracking down her long-lost father, Beecher tries to impress her by showing her the secret vault where the president reviews historical documents. Unexpectedly, Beecher and Clementine discover a 200-year-old dictionary that had been owned by George Washington hidden in a desk chair. As they ponder why the president would hide such a document, they quickly understand the high-stakes game they have found themselves involved with as a man turns up dead. This discovery entwines the pair in a web of lies, conspiracy and murder involving the Culper Ring, a group of secret spies tracing their history back to the days of the Revolutionary War.

In typical Meltzer fashion, “The Inner Circle” features an unsuspecting innocent being thrown into a huge conspiracy. However, I was left feeling a little disappointed by the story. I love the grand amount of research Meltzer does and the very interesting historical detail he uses to drive his novels. As a curious writer, I, too, love to do massive amounts of research and would love to someday be lucky enough to visit the National Archives as Meltzer apparently gets to do on a regular basis. I would have liked to have seen even more of the historical background at times because after reading the end result, all that research was not enough to create an engaging story. Unfortunately, many of the “twists” were very predictable and others forced you to suspend disbelief a little too much. And I didn’t feel invested in the characters enough to really want to know what happened to them. I kept waiting for the story to get on track and really impress me, but it never really did. It was like there was something missing, a certain je ne sais quoi that never materialized.

“The Inner Circle” is the first book in a planned series with Beecher as the hero. I probably will give the next one a try based on Meltzer’s track record. If you are a die-hard Meltzer fan, give this one a read. But if you are hoping for a suspenseful, mystery-driven novel deep in historical ties and backdrop, you will likely be left disappointed and wanting more from “The Inner Circle.”

On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I would give “The Inner Circle” a 3.

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