Nola Brown's 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 and the US government verify that she is dead. But Jim "Zig" Zigarowski has just found out the truth: Nola is still alive. And on the run.
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.