Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: The Escape Artist

Nola is a mystery
Nola is trouble.
And Nola is supposed to be dead.

Her body was found on a plane that mysteriously fell from the sky as it left a secret military base in the Alaskan wilderness. Her commanding officer verifies she’s dead. The US government confirms it. But Jim “Zig” Zigarowski has just found out the truth: Nola is still alive. And on the run.

Zig works at Dover Air Force Base, helping put to rest the bodies of those who die on top-secret missions. Nola was a childhood friend of Zig’s daughter and someone who once saved his daughter’s life. So when Zig realizes Nola is still alive, he’s determined to find her. Yet as Zig digs into Nola’s past, he learns that trouble follows Nola everywhere she goes. Nola is the U.S. Army’s artist-in-residence-a painter and trained soldier who rushes into battle, making art from war’s aftermath and sharing observations about today’s wars that would otherwise go overlooked. On her last mission, Nola saw something nobody was supposed to see, earning her an enemy unlike any other, one who will do whatever it takes to keep Nola quiet.

Together, Nola and Zig will either reveal a sleight of hand being played at the highest levels of power or die trying to uncover the US Army’s most mysterious secret-a centuries-old conspiracy that traces back through history to the greatest escape artist of all: Harry Houdini. -- Hachette

I considered myself extremely lucky to receive an advance e-copy of THE ESCAPE ARTIST by Brad Meltzer. I have loved so many of his books through the years, and I heard that his latest is a special one. I couldn't agree more! I devoured this novel in a little over a day... which is really saying something because I never have the time (or desire) to read a book straight through!

THE ESCAPE ARTIST is Brad Meltzer at his best. In this novel, two unlikely people work together (sometimes!) to get to the bottom of a major government cover-up. Nola Brown is an artist-in-residence with the U.S. Army. When an airplane crashes in Alaska, her body is found and delivered to "Zig" Zigarowski, a military mortician who has major skills at making dead soldiers presentable to their families. Zig recognizes the woman as the young girl who once saved his daughter's life when they were twelve. He is determined to do right by her... and then he realizes that the body he is working on isn't Nola's!

Zig is extremely dedicated to his job, but when he learns that Nola might still be alive, he's determined to find her. He quickly realizes that Nola has grown into a woman who can't stay out of trouble. She has an uncanny ability to see things other soldiers can't; and while it often times saves the lives of others, this past time has put her own life at risk!

Nola and Zig team up (well kind of/sort of -- it's complicated) to uncover secrets at the top levels of the U.S. military and government. And as strange as this sounds, these secrets include a conspiracy that goes the whole way back to Harry Houdini and his assistants.

I adored THE ESCAPE ARTIST! This novel was exactly what I love about thrillers -- a fast-paced story, interesting characters, and a complicated mystery. It was extremely well-written (and well researched), and I loved the blend of history and fiction. Furthermore, I was kept on the edge-of-my-seat with trying to determine who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. It was such a fun read!

There were quite a few things that I appreciated about this novel, but I think one of the true strengths was in the character development. I loved Zig and the way he had so much respect for soldiers and military families. In addition, I ended up really liking how he was so persistent in his attempts to help Nola and to get to the bottom of what the government was hiding -- he was a mortician for goodness sakes -- not exactly a typical hero in a thriller.

However, it was Nola's character that really captured my interest. The book included flashbacks into Nola's childhood to help explain her present state of mind, and what a tragic childhood it was. As an adult, Nola is one tough cookie, and it's no surprise that she is considering what she endured as a child. There were many times that I wasn't quite sure what to make of her, and I think she's one of the most damaged female characters I've ever encountered in this genre.

I didn't spend a lot of time trying to figure things out in this novel -- mainly because I knew I'd be wrong. There was a point when some things started to click, but I definitely didn't have a good grasp of the entire mystery. I loved how everything came together at the end of the novel, and I did end up being quite surprised.

In summary, THE ESCAPE ARTIST was a fantastic novel. I highly recommend it to fans of Brad Meltzer's as well as readers who like a good thriller!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a e-copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

You can always count on Meltzer for a great thriller. This sounds like it might be one of his best!

Beth Hoffman said...

I've not read anything by Meltzer, but you've convinced me to put this book on my list. Thanks, Julie!

The Book Sage said...

I've always been a Meltzer fan. But I haven't read him in a while. I may have to reconsider.