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Book Review- Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

Elise Cooper for BLACKFIVE

Brad Meltzer’s latest book, The Inner Circle, blends historical facts with a fictional plot. He is at his best when he writes novels that center around historical events. The plot centers on a spy organization, the Culper Ring, established by George Washington for the purpose of gathering and receiving information under the guise of regular civilians. Fast forward two and a half centuries and the current President appears to have a similar ring of advisors.

Through the characters, Meltzer is able to create a fascinating story. Beecher White who works at the National Archives is reunited with the girl he had a crush on during junior high school, Clementine Kaye. While taking her on a tour they discover what appears to be a two hundred year old dictionary hidden in a room reserved for the President. After someone is murdered the plot becomes a “who done it and why.” Beecher, Clementine, and a support team of other archivists must track this book looking for hidden messages using espionage skills. The characters are a fascinating combination of personalities. Beecher can be considered somewhat of a nerd, someone who does not have enough confidence in his social skills and is very righteous. Clementine is the girl who on the outside is tough as nails yet on the inside is extremely vulnerable. Throughout many of his books Meltzer always includes a character, in this case Kaye’s father, Nico Hadrian, who is delusional, bordering on psychotic; yet is able to provide clues that will help solve the mystery. When asked about these characters Meltzer stated that, “the book is always about regular people. I write about what I like. I am a nerdy guy and I like to examine who we are as people. I also like writing about psychotic characters since crazy people do exist.”

The theme of the book is fascinating since it explores the true meaning of history. A great quote from the novel is “history isn’t just something that’s written. It’s a selection process. It chooses moments, and events, and yes, people …that hands us situations we should never be able to overcome.” This mystery created by Meltzer applies the selection process to the characters and he is able to show how an ordinary event can lead to something that could possibly change the world. He commented that “I look at what real history is and let that form the plot. The rest is fiction so I can make up whatever I want. The amazing part is that if you look at real history it’s more interesting than anything that could be made up.”

Meltzer also finds captivating places for some of the settings of the novel. For example, he discusses how many national archive documents are stored in a cave in Boyers, Pennsylvania. The detailed description of the cave allows the reader to feel as if they were there experiencing going deep underground. He explained that he “wanted to make sure all the little details are correct. All those things in the book and ask is that real; it’s real. The cave scene came about when my tour guide showed me something cool. This was a place very few people see.”

Meltzer is known to combine historical facts with fiction. The Inner Circle does that in a skillful and gripping way. This a very fast paced book that the reader will not want to put down since the plot can be an all too real portrayal of today’s political environment.