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Disappointing, Confusing and Convoluted ... For Die-Hard Meltzer/Thriller Fans Only
on January 14, 2011
Like most Brad Meltzer books, The Inner Circle concerns a bright young man who works in Washington, DC. This time, instead of working on Capitol Hill (The Zero Game) or at the Supreme Court (The Tenth Justice), our "hero" works in the National Archives. (I can't help but wonder if Meltzer is running out of high-powered DC settings for his characters. Yet, sadly, the setting of the National Archives was the most exciting aspect of the book for me.) Beecher White is a serious young man who is struggling to recover from a recent split with his fiancee. His path to recovery is helped when his childhood crush, Clementine Kaye, shows up and asks for his help in tracking down her long-lost father.
Although Beecher and Clementine haven't seen each other since high school, Beecher has never really gotten over his crush. During a tour of the archives, Beecher tries to impress Clementine by showing her the secret vault where the president reviews classified documents. However, while inside the vault, they stumble across a hidden document--a dictionary that belonged to George Washington. Although their find seems innocuous at first, within moments a man turns up dead. Beecher and Clementine seem to have stumbled into a high-level conspiracy linked to the President ... but who is involved and what do they want? And what does an old dictionary that once belonged to George Washington have to do with it? As Beecher and Clementine struggle to find out what is going on, things get more convoluted and confusing (for Beecher as well as the reader). As events unfold, Beecher begins to question the motives of everyone around him, including Clementine.
As with previous Meltzer books, this is meant to be a fast-paced thriller involving innocents stumbling into conspiracies at the highest echelons of power. However, I think Meltzer is off his game as I found the plot confusing (by the end, I still wasn't 100% sure what was going on) and the characters dull and uninspiring. I really enjoyed Meltzer's first few books; they were fun, exciting and drew me in. However, I thought his recent books got progressively weaker. The last one I read, The Book of Fate, seemed like a bad Dan Brown book--and that is saying something as I'm not a huge Dan Brown fan. (Note: For fans of The Book of Fate, I should mention that a character who appeared in that book shows up in this book as well.) I'd written off Meltzer as having "jumped the shark," but when I saw The Inner Circle offered for review on NetGalley, I decided to give him another shot. Sadly, I regret that decision.
Although The Inner Circle isn't outright bad, I found the plot confusing and overly convoluted. By the end, I wasn't even sure who was on whose side and what the purpose of the book was. Then I read Swapna's review at S. Krishna's Books and discovered that The Inner Circle is the first book of a planned series, which probably explained why I was left with such a sense of confusion and "unfinishedness." Yet, at the same time, I wasn't compelled enough by this book to continue reading the series. Honestly, I didn't feel all that invested in Beecher and don't feel the need to find out what befalls him next. Not a good sign for the series, I think. However, there is always the possibility that I'm just being a crank.
As far as my recommendation, I can't really recommend this book unless you are a hard-core Meltzer fan or really love thrillers. I would recommend Meltzer's earlier books though; I remember being very fond of them, and I was a devoted Meltzer reader until I thought his books started to decrease in quality. If you're looking for a good thriller, you'd be better off reading The Zero Game or The Tenth Justice and giving this one a pass.