Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Book Review: The Fifth Assassin

I finally read "The Fifth Assassin" by Brad Meltzer. I picked it up back in January when he was in town signing books. It was one of the strangest talks I've even been to. See, Brad used to live in Washington, DC. He knows all kinds of interesting people. And they were the ones asking questions. In fact, the only person who asked a question and wasn't his friend was someone who had been put up to it by one of his friends.

The day before his DC signing Brad had done a signing in New York where they handed out decoder rings and set the Guinness Book World Record for “Most Secret Decoder Rings Worn in One Place.” He said that was the peak of his tour and that everything from now on would be kind of a let down. 

10 years ago someone on a submarine wrote to him to say they didn't have a large library, but that Brad's book had gotten him through some hard times, and "thanks". Brad turned around and asked some of his publishers to donate 10,000 books each to the USO. This got him involved with the USO doing book tours in Kuwait and whatnot. Well, two months before the talk he's on a Middle East tour with a bunch of other thriller writers. Someone thanks him for donating the books. Brad decides to look up the original author to tell him what came of his letter and pass on all the thanks. It turned out to be a bad time for the soldier. His mother had just died. They started talking and had a cry together. After Brad told that story the guy from the sub stood up from four seats to my left. Brad revised which stop this tour was the best.

Brad Meltzer writes thriller novels and comic book/graphic novels. I'm not a huge thriller novel reader. But I've read some of his graphic novels. But this book was inspired by a visit to the National Medical History Museum formerly at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. My friend My Krodie used to be Chief Archivist there and invited Brad to the museum. They have casts of Lincoln's face and hands, the bullet that killed him, bloody shirt cuffs from the doctor that worked on him, and pieces of the bodies of several other presidential assassins. One is a tattoo that they have every reason to believe came from the guy who killed Garfield. (I'm not checking notes so I'm hoping I got that right). The tattoo is of a red diamond. Brad remembered that John Wilkes Booth got to Lincoln by showing a card. We don't know what was on that card that got the guard to move. But Brad started putting together a plot to kill Presidents that's hidden in playing cards based on the design from 500 years ago and links together all four Presidential assassinations with a fifth one in this book. In the book they reach that museum in chapter 69. It was a nice touch that the story took place while Walter Reed was closed and the museum was being packed up to move.

So, the book!

As I said before, this isn't really my genre. This goes on the shelf with some big names in thrillers such as "Rainbow Six" by Tom Clancy and "The DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown instead of in the sci-fi wing of the house. "The Fifth Assassin" is closer to "The DaVinci Code". I liked "The Fifth Assassin" a bit more because they're not only having to work out cryptic clues left by ancient order, but they were having to solve a current mystery instead of just being chased by bad guys. The reading is easy and the chapters are short. I'm finding the short chapter thing to be common in thrillers. It gives a sense of action, speed, and urgency. Also good for having lots of stopping points if you read in bed. It didn't really inspire me to rush out and buy Brad Meltzer's other books. But I wouldn't be opposed to adding some to my audio book collection.

This book is part of a series. There are references to things that happened in previous books, but in this case the book stands alone beautifully. No real background necessary.

If you're a fan of thrillers I definitely recommend this book. Way more than than the Bones books. If you liked "The DaVinci Code" you'll probably like "The Fifth Assassin".

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