A fast-moving tale of murder, deception and intrigue linked to George Washington's Culper Ring and its espionage descendants.
Beecher White works in the "nation's attic"—the U.S. National Archives. Dumped by his fiancé and thoroughly depressed, the young archivist's mood improves after he's contacted by Clementine Kaye, a young woman he's had a crush on since school days. Raised by a single mother, Clemmi wants to search the Archives records to help find her father. Beecher wants to impress Clemmi, and so, with the help of a friendly security guard, they make a surreptitious foray into a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), a secured room where presidents examine top-secret material. There they stumble upon a hidden antique dictionary, one possibly owned by Washington. Soon the guard turns up dead. Is the dictionary a code book once used by the Culper Ring, a group of double agents, spies and messengers organized to assist Washington in the republic's chaotic early days? Does the Ring still operate? Hints pop up that President Orson Wallace uses the SCIF to communicate with today's Ring members. The mystery grows to encompass the president's doctor and barber, other archivists and Clemmie's father, who is revealed to be Nico Hadrian, institutionalized as the attempted assassin of a former president. Hadrian, paranoid and violent, seems to know things about the Ring, and about "the inner circle," the ring-within-the-ring that some less-than-ethical presidents have used to shape history. Meltzer's chapters are short and cinematic, and the conclusion—some bad guys dead and buried, some not—suggests he plans a series.
Conspiracies make for good reading, and this book could turn skeptics into believers.