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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Brad Meltzer's The Inner Circle

In Brad Meltzer’s The Inner Circle, conspiracies and mysteries span the centuries. The protagonist of the novel, Beecher White, is an archivist who works at the National Archives in Washington D.C. Beecher is struggling to recover from a recent split with his fiancĂ© when an old childhood crush appears back into his life. Clementine Kaye contacts Beecher and asks him to help her find her long lost father.

The two haven’t had any contact since junior high school, and Beecher, in an attempt to impress the lovely Clementine takes her on a tour of the Archives. They stumble across a hidden dictionary once belonging to George Washington and within minutes the security guard escorting them is found dying. They have blundered upon a conspiracy that reaches as high as the Oval Office and as far back the Revolutionary War.

I was looking forward to reading The Inner Circle. I enjoyed Meltzer’s Book of Lies, Book of Fate and The Zero Game. But I was initially disappointed in this novel. I felt like it lost focus in the last third of the novel. The Culper Ring was fascinating and I headed straight to Google to read more about this little known (to me at least) organization. The convoluted plot line, with two separate Culper Rings, good guys who are bad guys, bad guys whose intent is to be good guys, and bad guys who are just plain bad and conspiracies aplenty made for a mishmash of plotlines that was sometimes difficult to figure out. And don’t get me started on the ending….I hate unresolved endings. I would have liked to see a better resolution to this particular storyline, even though this is the beginning of a series.

My initial response to The Inner Circle was one of “What the *%#! I spent the last few days reading this book and the author didn’t bother to freaking finish it??? AAARGH!!” I swear I wished it had wings so I could teach it to fly when I threw it across the room. Then I stopped, and got a grip on myself. Oh yeah, I’m reading it on my Sony Reader, I’d better not be throwing nothin’ across the room.

I was surprised when I found myself thinking about the book for a couple of days. I was so annoyed when I finished it, that I swore to myself that I was done with the Culper Ring/National Archive books and the series could go on without me. But now, in retrospect, I’ll probably read the next one. I suppose this is a testament to the fact that Meltzer has written some compelling and likeable characters, and in spite of my irritation, I would sort of like to know what’s next for them.

Now the big question, would I recommend it? Hmm, it’s sort of a “well, yeah…but…” answer. I kind of think it might be worth waiting for the next book to be published, so you don’t have to wait for the resolution of The Inner Circle’s plot. But that just seems like an unreasonable qualification, so instead I’ll just state an unequivocal – “meh…maybe.”

My rating: Initially , but upon later reflection:

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.


Angelique said...

Have you watched his show, Decoded?? It's pretty interesting...examines a lot of conspiracy theory type stuff.

CJ said...

Vampires and Tofu? Really? There's got to be a story behind that tag...

Anyway, I was going to ask the same thing. Decoded is an amazing show.


Unknown said...

I heard Meltzer interviewed on the radio. I found his account of the Culper Ring intriguing and eagerly bought the book. Oy! I had just finished reading David Grossman's "To the End of the Land", and for all its flaws, there was obviously a great writer at work. Then I read this drek. Reading it, finishing it, was a masochistic exercise. The plot is replete with holes, the characters are not developed, the Culper Ring and the evil machinations are improbable, and the ending(s) are confusing and unresolved. However, I will not read the sequels, I think it dishonest for an author to write a book which does not stand by itself - unless he gives fair warning. Reminds me of "Blackout".

Unknown said...

Had interesting historical roots overlaid with a Da Vinci Code like plot. I completely agree with the main reviewer that I faded in the second half, and never did finish the book. Too many short chapters with hanging endings that did not make me want to find out what happened. The National Archive operations and Library of Congress interesting but not the Vatican and historical explication not The Name of the Rose. Would not recommend to my well read friends who read historical mystery or historical spy fiction. Not even close to the standard of Alan Furst. But I appreciate the thoughtful comments of those who enjoyed it. Doug

Top Ten Books said...

A truly astonishing book.