Book Club Reflection: The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

4 Jun

Brad Meltzer’s book The Inner Circle was chosen as the ‘Everyone’s Reading’ selection for 2015. This is a program the libraries in my area work to put together that usually culminates in the author coming to speak in the area. Previously, it was Chris Bohjalian. This year, Meltzer will be speaking in the area on June 22nd. But before he comes to speak, my book clubs usually read one or more of his books. Unfortunately, the meeting for The Inner Circle was moved forward a week and attendance suffered. We’re not sure if it was because of the book or the changed date, but the meeting was only me and one other woman. So here are our musings.

There were questions posted by the local libraries that helped our discussion, but we didn’t find that this genre led to a lot of discussion. It’s entertaining for sure, but not particularly thought-provoking.

The other woman at our discussion did some research on Meltzer. He said that Mr. Rodgers (the television personality) thought him that each person is special and not to let anyone tell him no when he set his mind to something. He also said that the teacher who told him he could write well is his hero. As the wife of an English teacher, this makes me happy.

Meltzer is called to Washington regularly to advise on potential terrorist threats and how the US can prepare itself to fight these. This is where he got his idea to write political thrillers. This book, in particular, was inspired by something George W. Bush whispered in his ear about how hard it is to keep secrets in the White House.

He says that his books have a recurring theme of the fallout from daily choices. We didn’t really see that in this book. Beecher was pressured into covering up the book, it wasn’t a daily choice. He chooses to meet Clementine, but that seemed like a coercion by the end of the book as well. I don’t think this theme was well brought out.

I’ve been to DC before and I never would have thought to go to the Archives to look up anything for myself. I saw the Constitution and called it a day. It sounds fun, but I’m not sure what I would look up!

One of the style choices Meltzer utilized was switching between present and past tense. Chapters narrated by Beecher were written in present tense while those narrated by other characters were in the past tense. I didn’t consciously notice this while reading, but I did feel it was jerky to switch between narrators and I believe this could be the reason. My fellow book-clubber didn’t notice the switches. She listened to the book on audio while following along in a physical copy and wonders if that might have been part of the reason.

We both liked the short chapter style. We think it helped us read the book faster because we got into the ‘One more chapter’ mode. I liked having a lot of places to stop that weren’t in the middle of a chapter.

We both liked Clementine when she was introduced. We believed her story and wanted her to find some closure and happiness. When she turned into a bad character, we were really disappointed. I felt really manipulated by her. At that point in the book, everything was turning out to be ‘not how it first seemed’ and, to be honest, I was getting a bit sick of it. Clementine was the icing on the cake.

We were surprised Tot ended up being a good guy. He seemed a bit suspect at times and I didn’t like that Beecher decided not to trust him when he was told by someone he didn’t necessarily trust to stop talking to him. I don’t see Tot being a major character in the remaining books, but I’m glad he was a part of this one.

It was hard to know what to think of Dallas. He seemed like a slimy character but in the end, we felt sorry for him. It was almost comical that he’d had the wool pulled over his eyes by the President’s inner circle to think he was part of the Culper Ring. I wanted to feel sorry for him because he did seem to have good intentions, but his ignorance made me think he was stupid. I’m still kind of indifferent to him.

Beecher was a hard protagonist to like. He acted very stupidly at times for someone who was also very intelligent. He was sucked in by a beautiful woman quickly. He trusted everyone to a fault. Our questions asked us if he reminded us of Indiana Jones. We didn’t feel that way because Indy was very action-oriented in how he solved historical mysteries while Beecher’s plot was advanced more intellectually. He reminded me more of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon from the Angles and Demons series.

This is the first book in a series so we speculated what would happen in the sequels (I have the second but don’t know how long it will be until I read it). How will Beecher and the Culper Ring find Clementine in Canada and what would they do when they find her? We think that would be the bulk of the story, but I’m not really interested in that story. I’m more interested in Minnie because I disliked her. I don’t know how involved the President will be in future novels because he doesn’t have a secret, only his sister does. But he seems determined to protect it. The other woman who joined me said that this reminds her of the TV series Scandal which I’ve never seen. She says there’s a big secret with his wife and father and the no-good things they get up to.

Hopefully, more people show up to our next meeting. I like discussing with a group more!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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