I’m not big on thrillers. I find the characters unbelievably lucky and the premise unbelievable. So yes, I went into this book skeptically. And yes, that has affected my rating. But I always enjoy the ride and this was no exception. Things are never how they seem in a thriller. When this was chosen as our book club selection I thought it seemed like an odd choice. I learned that Meltzer is coming to speak in the area in June. I’ve got tickets to go with my mom. So expect a few more posts about him and his work.
The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer
Summary from Goodreads:
Beecher White, a young archivist, spends his days working with the most important documents of the U.S. government. He has always been the keeper of other people’s stories, never a part of the story himself…
When Clementine Kaye, Beecher’s first childhood crush, shows up at the National Archives asking for his help tracking down her long-lost father, Beecher tries to impress her by showing her the secret vault where the President of the United States privately reviews classified documents. After they accidentally happen upon a priceless artifact – a 200 hundred-year-old dictionary that once belonged to George Washington, hidden underneath a desk chair, Beecher and Clementine find themselves suddenly entangled in a web of deception, conspiracy, and murder.
Soon a man is dead, and Beecher is on the run as he races to learn the truth behind this mysterious national treasure. His search will lead him to discover a coded and ingenious puzzle that conceals a disturbing secret from the founding of our nation. It is a secret, Beecher soon discovers, that some believe is worth killing for.
I wasn’t aware that this was the first in a series until the end and I wish I’d known that because I would have been ready for the ending. It wouldn’t have seemed so abrupt. But oh well. Like I expected it was a fun ride but not the kind of book I really enjoy. The characters were incredibly smart and the premise seemed a bit twisted from the beginning. Everyone seemed really lucky (well, except Dallas) and managed to escape awful situations unscathed. It reminded me of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series and how surreal those seemed. I guess you could say I was very ‘meh’ about this one.
Some of the characters were believable. Strangely, I thought Nico was very believable. I thought Meltzer did a good job writing someone who was mentally ill and explaining their obsessions and thought processes. I thought Beecher was pretty credible, but he was very trusting in things that seemed outrageous. As someone whose job is grounded in facts, this seemed a bit out of character. I thought the rest of the characters seemed, well, right out of an adventure novel. That is to say, I didn’t believe there could be people like them. It’s so removed from my life that I couldn’t picture it. Thus my problem with this genre as a whole.
I don’t normally like the protagonist, but, in this case, I think Beecher was my favorite character. I liked figuring things out with him even though I was allowed to jump into other people’s heads for a bit at a time. It’s probably because he was the most realistic character, as I described above. I think I would have been more upfront about my involvement in the beginning, but other than that I understood his motivations.
Part of what makes me dislike thrillers is that my life is so different from the characters. I can’t imagine finding out my father tried to kill the president. I can’t see myself trying to track down the secret the President has been protecting for 26 years. It’s so far from my life and it makes me disinterested.
I liked learning the truth about Minnie. If you haven’t read this book, this is a huge spoiler. Skip the rest of this paragraph. I liked learning that she isn’t the meek person she’s presented as in the beginning and learning how the relationship between her and the President is so strong and deep made me happy. I almost liked that she stood up for herself, but at the same time I stopped trusting her as a character. She invoked the most complex reactions in me and I liked that about her character.
I didn’t like the ending. Again, spoiler here so skip ahead. Finding out that Beecher’s father might be alive was too much for me. The book started off as a fun story where the President has a spy ring. Now we’re talking about a secret military experiment that’s been going on for years and years. It was a turn I wasn’t anticipating and it seemed a bit extreme for me. I’m not tempted to read the sequels because I think I’d be disappointed in the premise after reading this book.
Another thing I find disappointing about thrillers is that they seem to lack a theme much of the time. I would say the strongest themes in this book were both not to trust anyone and to trust in those who you’ve trusted for a long time. Maybe it’s best to say every man is out for himself and if you do have to trust someone, do so with caution.
Writer’s Takeaway: I liked Meltzer’s use of short chapters. This is one thing I really like about thrillers. Yes, it keeps me going from one chapter to the next quickly, but it also allows me a lot of stopping points. I like the short chapters because if there’s a character I don’t like, I’m not stuck with him for a long time. I think it works well for the modern short attention span. My writing tends to have slightly longer chapters than Meltzer writes, but I’m a fan of this style.
Overall, fun and a quick read, but not a genre I enjoy. Three out of Five stars.
Until next time, write on.