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Book Review: The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer (3/5)

7 Dec

When I met Brad Meltzer last year, I bought several of his books to have them signed. Since then, I’ve slowly started going through the large stack which is being made faster by audiobooks. This one was a doozy! It’s just over 500 pages in the hardcover I have and sixteen hours of audio. On the upside, this was my 50th book of the year and helped me wrap up my reading goal for the year!

Cover image via Goodreads

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer

Other books by Brad Meltzer reviewed on this blog:

The Inner Circle (Book Club Reflection)
The Book of Lies

Summary from Goodreads:

“Six minutes from now, one of us would be dead. None of us knew it was coming.”

So says Wes Holloway, a young presidential aide, about the day he put Ron Boyle, the chief executive’s oldest friend, into the president’s limousine. By the trip’s end, a crazed assassin would permanently disfigure Wes and kill Boyle. Now, eight years later, Boyle has been spotted alive. Trying to figure out what really happened takes Wes back into disturbing secrets buried in Freemason history, a decade-old presidential crossword puzzle, and a two-hundred-year-old code invented by Thomas Jefferson that conceals secrets worth dying for.

This book was what I expected it to be. There were presidential secrets, a lot of traveling around, fights, deaths, and enough twists to keep me guessing. If you’re a political thriller fan, this is a good book for you. Unfortunately, this isn’t my favorite genre and some of the things I look for in a book were missing. There wasn’t much of an arc for Wes. (He slightly overcame his fears but it was so forced it didn’t feel like growth.) There weren’t any relationships that developed between the characters in a meaningful way. (I felt the relationship with Lisbeth was a bit sudden.) I enjoyed the book, to be sure, in the same way I’d enjoy watching an action movie. It can be well done but not what I’d really want to be watching.

It’s hard to say the characters were credible because they were put into situations where it’s hard to know how any person would react. These people led very public lives as well. Dreidel is a sleazebag, to be sure, and I don’t know if that makes him more believable. It does seem true to modern politics, though.

Rogo was my favorite character. I thought the loyalty he had to Wes was admirable and he had a distinct personality which helped him stand out from so many of the government-employed characters. (A lot of them were really flat.) I wish his intelligence and law knowledge had come into play more, though. Even if he’s fighting traffic tickets, he still had to pass the bar exam! He was comedic, which was nice, but his job didn’t have to be a lawyer if it wasn’t going to be utilized.

With such high profiles and such extreme circumstances, it’s hard for me to relate to any of these characters. In particular, I didn’t relate to Lisbeth. I felt her involvement in the case was a huge risk to herself and there was a very little reward in it for her. If I had to pick someone, I’d say I related to Wes. He was almost married to his job and I’ve felt that way sometimes with work. Though I can’t say I’d go to the life-threatening extremes Wes did to understand what was happening around the office!

Brad Meltzer and me

I thought the ending in the graveyard was great. It was fast-paced, had a great twist (that I want to say but won’t) and gave a satisfactory ending. I also appreciate (‘like’ seems to be the wrong word) when characters are actually hurt in a fight. I think too often heroes walk away from a fight without a scratch when they really would not have been able to do so. Lisbeth got hurt and I think that if she hadn’t, the scene would have been very unrealistic.

Boyle’s son bothered me a lot. What happened to him?! I might have missed it, but I don’t think we ever find out. If we do, let me know, I’m dying here trying to find it in the book. I thought the wrap-up with his character was really weak and I wish the last few chapters had focused on him just a little bit more.

The audiobok was narrated by Scott Brick. I think he did an amazing job. Flipping through the book now, I see how many ‘sound’ words Meltzer included and looking through the pages, it’s almost distracting. I never noticed that with Brick’s narration. He also did well differentiating voices with such a heavily-male cast. It must have been a stretch to find different ways to represent so many voices!

Appearances were never what they seemed in this book. President Manning looked cowardly in the picture taken of him at the racetrack when he was in fact trying to help. I think there were many instances of that in the book. Dreidel looked like an upstanding person but had some personal baggage. Boyle appeared to be dead but wasn’t. And the person who ended up being key in the whole thing (again, holding my tongue), was someone you never would have expected. Wes could trust Rogo, but there were few others who deserved that trust.

Writer’s Takeaway: I always admire in trhrillers that the author has the ability to surprise me up to the end. Meltzer is great at that and I’ve seen it in several of his books. I hope that I can surprise my readers even on the last page in books I write.

This was a good book, and well written, though not a genre I’m particularly fond of. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer | The Book Pedler