A librarian as a hero? Actually Beecher White is an archivist at the National Archives in Washington. Still, librarian or archivist, they are close to the same thing and certainly having your main character in a suspense thriller be an archivist is not the norm. The suspense/thriller genre is always well trod ground as copycats abound to any new idea or plot artifice. Meltzer himself follows Dan Brown a bit, Robert Langdon could be taken as a model for the character Beecher White. Langdon was a Professor, White is an archivist, neither is a cop, detective, or ex-con turned good as is often the case in these books. Books that portray the brainy fellow with the degree in library sciences as a hero have a good start with me.
Meltzer actually introduced the character Beecher White in a previous book and fans of him by the end of this book will be pleased to see that it becomes clear that we will meet him again in the future. Early reviews of The Fifth Assassin have been good and, in comparison to most of the other books in this genre, they are correct. Meltzer, by tying all four Presidential assassins together in a plot that goes back to the beginnings of the country, grabs our interest quickly and makes this book a page turner. As we read about playing cards, French history, John Wilkes Booth, and those who wish to follow in his footsteps even today, one might find themselves staying up much later than intended to reach the conclusion. I know I did.
It is only fair for me to advise that I rarely read this type of book. I find the stories to too often be oh so similar in each book. Being a lover of history however, the author’s use of these assassinations, brought me to actually seek out this book at the library.
For the many lovers of suspense books there are a great many choices. Clive Cussler, David Baldacci, John Grisham if one wants to go with the legal thriller, and many, many more tracing back to my teenage favorite Robert Ludlum. With this overflow of titles one suspects it is very difficult to be original, to make one’s work standout. With the development of the character Beecher White, Meltzer has created a character that readers can embrace without suspending all belief.
The book did capture me from the beginning, to the point that I actually was talking to my wife about the role playing cards have had in history ( and in the storyline of this book). The author does an excellent job of keeping the identity of the killer secret from the reader, providing a few red herrings along the way. The most revealing way I can write of this book is to tell you that I, a person who rarely reads this type of book and often bails in disbelief and annoyance halfway through when I make an attempt to, finished this book at about 2:30 A.M. The writing is a bit clunky but it is not designed to be literature, it is designed to be a fast paced suspense novel that makes an effort to be a bit above the grade. In this it succeeds completely.
For the legions of folks who pick up these books in great volume I have no doubt that this book will be a huge hit. Those folks like me who, assuming all of these books are the same, do not often look in the suspense aisle of your bookstore would be wise to do so as well. Sometimes a good story is just what we all need, Meltzer provides a strong one here.