Archive | 10:18 AM

Book Review: The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer (3/5)

10 Jul

I throw a thriller into the mix every once in a while, just to keep things fresh. Meltzer has been a go-to author for a while since I picked up a few autographed versions of his books at an author event a few years back. I’ve turned to audiobooks for a few of them just to save myself some reading time. They also make for good distractions while driving.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Fifth Assassin (Culper Ring #2) by Brad Meltzer

Other books by Meltzer reviewed on this blog:

The Book of Fate
The Book of Lies 
The Inner Circle (Culper Ring #1) and Book Club Reflection
Meeting Author Brad Meltzer

Summary from Goodreads:

From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, there have been more than two dozen assassination attempts on the President of the United States.

Four have been successful.

But now, Beecher White discovers a killer in Washington, D.C. who’s meticulously re-creating the crimes of these four men. Historians have branded them as four lone wolves. But what if they are wrong?

Beecher is about to discover the truth: that during the course of a hundred years, all four assassins were secretly working together. What was their purpose? For whom do they really work? And why are they planning to kill the current President?

Beecher’s about to find out. And most terrifyingly, he’s about to come face-to-face with the fifth assassin.

It’s been a few years since I read the first book in this series but I was able to pick up on things pretty quickly as I went along. I’ve read a few Meltzer books now and it always catches me off guard when people show up in more than one of his books. It makes them all run together a bit more than I’d like, but it’s also a nice touch to those who have read a lot of his books. My frustration with this one was that it felt too much like all of his book. Presidential thrillers don’t allow for too much variety because they’re going to involve a lot of politics and Secret Service and likely a good amount of presidential history. There’s not much more to it than that. These books can get a bit repetitive if you read too many in a row so I’ll probably take a break for a while.

Credibility isn’t something I look for in characters in this kind of book. The fact that the characters are unbelievable is part of their appeal. Nico isn’t a normal religious fanatic or assassin. Beecher is much more than an archivist. Something’s fishy about the small time Beecher, Marshall, and Clementine come from and none of it is believable. If it were, it wouldn’t be fun.

I didn’t really have a favorite character in this book. None of them were very likable to me. In the end, I think Marshall was my favorite, but I still didn’t care for him much. His motivation ended up being great and, without spoiling anything, he was very different from what everyone thought and ended up being a great, deep new character for this series. If I read more, it will only be to answer questions I have about Marshall and his background.

These characters were hard to relate to but I didn’t expect that out of this genre. I’ve never suspected my father’s death was faked or that there was government interference in my run-ins with old friends. Beecher’s life is a bit too fantastical to be relatable to a 20-something in the Midwest working in Automotive.

Brad Meltzer and me

I thought the trip to Camp David was pretty cool. It seemed well researched for a place no media has seen. I wonder how much of it was made it. I bought the whole thing. I’ve never thought too much about the Camp and how remote it is before. That’s really great that the President has somewhere like that to retreat to.

I’m not sure how much this book advanced the plot of the trilogy. It was good as a stand-alone but Clementine, Nico, Wallace, and Beecher didn’t change much as a result of this book. If Meltzer wanted Nico free and Marshall introduced, I think that could have been done much simpler at the beginning of a book that was going to advance the plot more. Maybe I’d have to read the third book to understand the significance of what’s happened in this one but now, I’m shrugging my shoulders a bit.

The audiobook was narrated by Scott Brick. He did a good job building tension through eventful scenes. He didn’t differentiate his voice much for characters and it threw me off a few times but over twelve disks, that was almost negligible. I don’t have too much very positive or very negative to say on this narration. It was good but not stand-out.

This genre doesn’t lend itself well to themes and morals. I guess not trusting your government could be part of it but you could just as easily derive the history of playing cards being critical to major assassinations. It seems silly to try too hard to gather a moral message from this one.

Writer’s Takeaway: Meltzer had me guessing until the end who the Knight would be and what role Marshall would play in the book. Sometimes these things can seem overly obvious in thrillers but it was disguised well here. I think this is a good trick for any writer to master because it helps build tension in a story and can make for a very exciting conclusion.

This was a good book for its genre but I wasn’t in the right mood for it. Three out of Five Stars

Until next time, write on.

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Book Review – The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer | Tim Busbey
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