“The Escape Artist”

escape artist“The Escape Artist” by Brad Meltzer is about the fight for life. It grabs readers from the start.

“These were the last thirty-two seconds of her life. She knew why this plane was going down. This wasn’t an accident.”

This is the personal story of Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, a mortician at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, tending to the bodies service members. He prides himself on the care and dignity that he shows “clients” and families. One case is especially real and gut wrenching for him; Nola, a friend of his deceased daughter, died in a tragic airplane crash in Alaska. It becomes clear that there is more to this crash than meets the eye when Zig finds a note with the dying words of the female stranger lying on the table in front of him: “Nola, you were right. Keep running.”

The descriptions have an incredible sense of pageantry, precision, tradition, and honor. “The six-man carry team in camouflage fatigues and bright white gloves, marching in perfect precision, two by two, with their team leader behind them. Hup-hup-hup-hup.”

There are also some lighter, even humorous, moments among the tragedy. “You think I’m joking? This is that moment where they tell the babysitter the call’s coming from inside the house —and you’re the babysitter,”

The story is not written sequentially; chapters go back and forth in time, and move from one character to another. Main characters have significant backstories that come out a little at a time to give depth and to help readers connect with them on multiple levels. Readers learn how the characters got to where they are in the present part of the story.

There are many unusual alliances throughout the book, making readers question the part each character plays. The bad guys look so much like good guys, that it is impossible to tell them apart. There might not even be any good guys except Zig, and readers cannot even be sure about him.

Pages are filled with tension, thrills, and emotions that pull readers into every aspect of the action and characters. The clues are everywhere, but they seem to conflict with other clues. Gradually a picture develops, but is the picture clear or clouded by conspiracy?

This makes for a book that keeps readers eagerly turning each page to see what changes come along next

I received a copy of “The Escape Artist” from Brad Meltzer, Grand Central Publishing, and NetGalley. It is a compelling book that keeps readers guessing page after page. The characters are complex; the action is non-stop, and the ending unexpected. It was interesting to find out just who the escape artist in the title really is. I am still trying to recover.