Trying his hand at a star-spangled version of The Da Vinci Code, Meltzer produces his biggest, dumbest book.
Former presidential aide Wes Holloway still rues the day eight years ago when he allowed deputy chief of staff Ron Boyle to ride in President Leland Manning’s limo to a NASCAR race. On their arrival at the track, crazy Nico Hadrian, presumably shooting at Manning, killed Boyle and left the right side of Wes’s face paralyzed. Now Wes, still attached to ex-President Manning’s much-diminished entourage, spots a man who’s unmistakably Boyle and unmistakably alive at a conference in Malaysia. Stung by the likelihood that’s he’s been castigating himself in vain all these years, Wes determines to dig up the story behind Boyle’s resurrection. The trail of revelations will pit him, his roommate Rogo, his predecessor Gavin “Dreidel” Jeffer and bulldog Palm Beach Post gossip columnist Lisbeth Dodson against a Masonic conspiracy stretching from the founding of the Republic to a nefarious contemporary plot involving a venal anti-terrorist tipster dubbed The Roman, a power-mad cabal calling themselves The Three and a possible Number Four of even more dastardly hue. Assiduously following the Dan Brown playbook, Meltzer (The Zero Game, 2004, etc.) salts his potboiler with secret codes, research in underground archives, cliffhanger endings, paranoid historical fantasies, cackling megalomaniacs and gunmen willing to shoot anything that moves, as several of them demonstrate in a kitchen-sink finale. Every ingredient is perfect except for clear plotting, credible threats and characters (and a conspiracy) worth caring about.
How successful will Meltzer’s fumbling knockoff be? If the Masons sell half as well as Mary Magdalene and Opus Dei, expect follow-ups starring the ACLU, the Rotarians and the Mickey Mouse Club.