Sunday, April 15, 2007

Brad Meltzer - "The Book Of Fate"

The Book Of Fate was the second book by Mr Meltzer that I read (first being The Millionnaires) and - as an indication of just how good a writer he is - I have since read the rest of his novels in very quick succession.

The novel focusses on the trials and tribulations of Wes, personal aide to former president Manning. Horribly scarred by a supposedly-failed assassination attempt, Wes has spent the past eight years working for the former president and his family, almost religiously devoting himself to his work and the president's legacy. Then, as indicated in the blurb on the back of the book, close friend Ron Boyle who was thought to have died during the attempt on Manning's life is spotted by, alive and well (with minor plastic surgery), breaking into Manning's dressing room in Malaysia.

What follows is Wes's attempts to discover the truth about what happened on that fateful day, when his life was altered so painfully - he lost all nerve and muscle control down one side of his face. What makes this different from standard thrillers is both the outcome, the reason behind the mystery and the clues available to Wes and his helpers - a gossip columnist from a Florida newpaper, and the aspiring Congressman who got Wes his job with Manning.

After finding a bizarre code scribbled by the side of a crossword filled in by the president, Wes delves deeper into the loyalties of his co-workers and also the impetus of the man who wounded him - who is still alive, languishing at a mental hospital, until someone from his past pays him a visit.

Don't be fooled by the title - this is not really a thriller in the same vein as Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, or any other of the multitudes of founding-father conspiracy novels that have been pushed on the public in recent years. While there is some reference to Freemasons and so forth, The Book Of Fate follows a more conventional thriller style.

The pace is quick throughout, without lacking detail or cutting corners. Meltzer's ability to spin a tale has certainly improved since his first novel, The Tenth Justice (which was also a very enjoyable, cleverly-plotted political thriller). The book fulfils all the hopes anyone might have for a thriller in this day and age - great characterisation, a pace that never lets up, a convincing storyline, a healthy amount of wit, and a great finale.
If there was one fault with Mr Meltzer's writing style, it would be that occassionally he used certain phrases that sound cheesy or out of place but these are usually short and not integral to the story. Thankfully, he only partially succumbs to my biggest bug-bear with thrillers, and that's the emotional aspect of many characters - they seem to only experience the extremes of emotion. With Meltzer's characters, though, we get a wide range of emotions, which not only makes the characters more believable but also makes his books even more readable.
If you haven't tried any of Brad Meltzer's novels, I strongly advise you to start right now. Maybe then his publisher will spend some more time promoting his work.
Also try: James Twining, Kyle Mills, Mike Lawson, John Grisham

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