The Inner Circle
by Brad Meltzer
When Brad Meltzer is at his best, there are few better. His novel, The Zero Game, blew me away. Blew. Me. Away. Unfortunately, subsequent novels have been increasingly weak. I’m happy to report that that trend stops here. It’s not a perfect novel, but with The Inner Circle, Brad is moving back in the right direction. It has flaws, but the one undeniable fact is that I had an absolute blast reading it.
In the past, Meltzer has placed his political thrillers in every corner of government. This time the focus is, surprisingly enough, on the National Archives. After a brief, tense scene between the President of the United States and an unnamed archivist, Chapter 1 introduces us to our protagonist. Beecher White is a 30-year-old archivist who loves his work. He’s likeable, but a bit dull. A colleague jokes, “You’re like Indiana Jones, but just the professor part.” His personal life hasn’t been great of late, but perhaps things are about to turn around because this is the day he reunites with his high school crush, Clementine Kaye. She’s visiting the archives in hopes of learning something important about her own history.
That doesn’t mean I turned off my inner critic entirely, however, and as much as I enjoyed this novel, I think there was a little sloppiness to the storytelling. There were a couple of instances where someone knew something they really shouldn’t have. Nothing too important, but it was sloppy. Additionally, three-quarters of the way through the novel, Meltzer suddenly starts giving readers answers to question by introducing flashback chapters with headings like “Twenty-six years ago Journey, Ohio” or “Four months ago St. Elizabeths Hospital.” It simply isn’t elegant storytelling. I still feel there must have been a more graceful way to tell the tale without those late-in-the-game flashbacks, but regardless, they got the job done.
The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, but it’s clearly also the opening for a sequel, or even a series. Despite my minor complaints, I will be looking forward happily to the continued exploits of Beecher White. In fact, I think I’ll drop by the National Archives the next time I fly home. I never before realized what a hotbed of excitement it is!