Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Book of Fate - Brad Meltzer

The Book Of Fate
Brad Meltzer
Warner Books


“Six minutes from now, one of us would be dead.” If that opening line doesn’t grab you, then you, my friend, are un-grabbable.

The narrator of the story is Wes Holloway, a 23-year-old presidential aide at the time the story begins. He’s used to juggling the myriad demands on the time and presence of President Leland Manning, and on this particular morning, Deputy Chief of Staff Ron Boyle is livid that a scheduling mistake means that he’s going to miss his meeting with Manning. In an attempt to assuage him, Wes arranges a seat for Boyle in the Presidential limousine. That decision changes everything for Wes, when the occupants of the car come under fire from a would-be assassin. Boyle dies. Wes is hit in the face, undergoes months of surgeries and rehab, and emerges from the experience with scars both physical and mental.

Eight years later, Wes is still working as an aide for now-former President Manning. While on a trip to Malaysia, Wes catches a stranger in a restricted area. A tussle ensues, and to his shock, Wes believes he recognizes Ron Boyle. Of course, he just got off the flight to Asia, and he’s running a fever, so he omits that salient detail when reporting the incident to the Secret Service. Later, doing his own checking, Wes discovers that someone had been staying at the same hotel. That individual was checked in under an old code name for Manning, known only to Wes and Boyle. The address given is Manning’s private family home. Either this person intended to be found, or someone invited him. Riddled with guilt for his perceived role in Boyle’s death, Wes can’t let this go. Following the trail leads him to corruption, secrets, a code invented by Thomas Jefferson, and a mystery that stretches back to the founding of the United States.

The book begins with a moment-by-moment description of the events leading up to the shooting. It’s excruciating, knowing that death and injury is seconds away, and being able to do nothing but watch as events unfold. This perfectly articulates the feelings of Wes, even years after the fact. He relives those moments and that guilt daily. It affects him in very realistic ways. The author writes all his characters as fully fleshed-out human beings, complete with flaws. And he includes the kind of behind the scenes political detail that makes every scene ring true. The pacing is perfect, the plotting excellent. A word of warning: Make sure you’ve blocked out some time for reading when you start this one. It’s almost impossible to put down this intelligent thriller.

Rating: 9
September 2006
ISBN# 0-446-53099-9 (hardcover)


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