Meltzer weaves a stellar tale of history, government-insider knowledge, and thrills to deliver his best book in years. At times the violence is intense — and the villains are borderline comic book — but Meltzer's steady hand knows how to balance a fine line between compelling and discomforting. Since Zig and Nola are both artists in their own unique way, the visuals and narrative are even more intense than one would expect in a thriller ... The Escape Artist is the rare novel that one wants to read fast while also needing to go slow to savor every word.
Meltzer has based his literary career on conspiracy-themed stories, and he’s very good at them. In Nola and Zig, too, he’s created two of his most compellingly fresh characters. Nola, in particular, represents a high point in the author’s career: a strong, resourceful, mysterious female lead who could go toe-to-toe with Jack Reacher, Bob Lee Swagger, and the other guys. First of a new series, according to the publisher, and that’s just fine.
Some of Meltzer’s novels focus heavily on uncovered historical conspiracies. The Escape Artist has some historical revelations centered on the magic tricks Houdini turned for the government, and Meltzer does strong research, as always, into the inner workings of the government. But it’s main focus is the two engrossing protagonists and their battle for survival ... The Escape Artist has plenty of suspenseful fight scenes for thriller fans, and those confrontations are more interesting because of Zig’s limitations in combat. This mortician has heart, but he’s no Bruce Willis beating up muscle-bound 20-year-olds. As long as the reader can buy that a civilian would repeatedly risk his life for someone he barely knows and who rejects his help, this is another engrossing read from Meltzer.
Meltzer has a gift for turning average Joes into unlikely heroes. He’s done it throughout his career, most notably with his Beecher White series (which by the way, seems to be set in the same universe as Zig and Nola–Meltzer’s fans will recognize a cameo from a certain president) and 2016’s The House of Secrets. There’s also nobody better when it comes to mixing in historical facts with nail-biting fiction ... Meltzer hasn’t ever written anything quite like his latest book. The Escape Artist is thrilling, yet full of soul. It’ll entertain you, and teach you. It’ll have you cheering, but it’ll also grip you emotionally. When you’re on the brink of tears, Meltzer makes you laugh. Toss in nonstop suspense, blind-siding twists and turns, a fascinating conspiracy, plenty of action. . . and you’ve got a story unlike anything else currently sitting on bookstore shelves, and a story that only Brad Meltzer could tell.
Meltzer weaves a stellar tale of history, government-insider knowledge, and thrills to deliver his best book in years. At times the violence is intense — and the villains are borderline comic book — but Meltzer’s steady hand knows how to balance a fine line between compelling and discomforting. Since Zig and Nola are both artists in their own unique way, the visuals and narrative are even more intense than one would expect in a thriller.
The Escape Artist is the rare novel that one wants to read fast while also needing to go slow to savor every word.
Meltzer (co-author: The House of Secrets, 2016, etc.) has begun a series of harrowing flashbacks to Nola’s childhood and adolescence that firmly establish her as the most damaged heroine in the genre since Lisbeth Salander ... The same mixture as before: a sweeping, overplotted, overscaled account of high crimes, misdemeanors, and violent coverups and reprisals. But those flashbacks into the heroine’s traumatic early years, although they seriously disrupt the momentum of the blood-and-thunder present-day plot, sting long after the details of that plot have faded.
Brad Meltzer’s novels come with certain expectations: a plot filled with carefully researched but often obscure bits of American history and the government. Those facts may seem far-fetched but are nevertheless true and elevate the characters’ adventures ... Meltzer keeps the action crackling as he delves into the background and motives of both Zig and Nola. Each is a complicated character whose motives are realistically explored ... Meltzer makes us care deeply about both Zig and Nola and is planning for both characters to return in his next novel. Meanwhile, there’s no escaping the solid storytelling of The Escape Artist.”
For a thriller, Meltzer’s plot is acceptable. The story moves steadily forward, sort of like a hearse with no brakes careening downhill, bouncing off parked cars and scattering pedestrians like frightened chickens while the body bounces up and down in back. The pages turn, which is more or less the point. The problem with Meltzer, though, is his narrative voice. He has the kind of writing style that sets your teeth on edge. His dialogue is unrealistic, particularly with children who come off like characters on a mediocre Saturday morning cartoon. His scenes are contrived and artless, written with a careless lack of concern for verisimilitude ... His thrillers have also found their base and are guaranteed to make the bestsellers’ lists. Unfortunately, however, The Escape Artist promises much more than it delivers, and it’s not something you’d really care to cross the street to look for.
Readers familiar with Meltzer’s style will immediately recognize his work here. Slow reveal of backgrounds, flashbacks, a friendly hero who is way out of his depth involved in a thriller ... “The Escape Artist” is a perfect escape for readers who love mystery and page-turners.
The Escape Artist marks Meltzer’s 20-year anniversary of his first thriller, The Tenth Justice, and his evolution as a writer is notable. Frequently praised for his quirky, memorable characters, in this novel he dissects them from the skin to the soul, methodically exfoliating each raw layer until he exposes their vital force.
Brad Meltzer is the real deal. Any author who plunders the annals of history --- in his case, U.S. government history --- is going to need to do a fair amount of research. The reason I revere Meltzer so much is that he doesn't just sit back and create clever fiction based on historical context; he himself is a participant in this history ... The Escape Artist is a treat, as are any of the great fiction and nonfiction works Meltzer has created. It may very well produce the most desired magic trick for Meltzer as he watches copies of it disappear off bookstore shelves worldwide.