“Life is filled with trapdoors.”
– Brad Meltzer, The Book of Lies
I’m sorry that tonight’s book review is on a story that, most likely, quite a few people haven’t heard of. Brad Meltzer is a New York Times Bestselling Author known for his political thriller novels. This isn’t a genre that normally grabs my interest in particular, but The Book of Lies is one I (initially) found hard to put down.
Published in 2008, The Book of Lies is a National Treasure-esque adventure, outlined as follows in the publisher’s summary:
“In Chapter Four of the Bible, Cain kills Abel. It is the world’s most famous murder. But the Bible is silent about one key detail: the weapon Cain used to kill his brother. That weapon is still lost to history.
In 1932, Mitchell Siegel was killed by three gunshots to his chest. While mourning, his son dreamed of a bulletproof man and created the world’s greatest hero: Superman. And like Cain’s murder weapon, the gun used in this unsolved murder has never been found.
Until now. Today in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Cal Harper comes face-to-face with his family’s greatest secret: his long-lost father, who’s been shot with a gun that traces back to Mitchell Siegel’s 1932 murder. What does Cain, history’s greatest villain, have to do with Superman, the world’s greatest hero? And what do two murders, committed thousands of years apart, have in common?”
It’s an excellent concept for a story. I saw this on the library shelf back in 2008 and got the chance to read it over that winter break. Once I started reading, I finished it in only two or three sittings.
I saw this book on the same library shelf at the start of winter break this past year, 2012, and decided I’d give it another whirl. And though I read it through just as fast as before, my newly sharpened literary mind found a lot more to complain about, too. Now armed with personal pros and cons, I direct my energy to this review.
What I liked: there was obviously a good deal of thought worked into the text. The premise lends itself to a mind-twisting adventure, and Meltzer delivers on that front. Once the answers start to trickle in, the plot thickens, and from there it’s hard not to be curious about what happens next. There’s the occasional humorous moment, too, which I always appreciate.
What I didn’t like: well, the main complaint I’ve heard about this book (and agree with) is its unrealistic feel. Yes, there are some twists and revelations that are just a little too hard to accept. Granted, you’ll have that with any story of this genre, but in this particular case it was just a smidge too unbelievable.
The dialogue and characters are both hit-or-miss from start to finish. Some of the characters are cardboard and clichéd, with dialogue that sounds like it came right out of The Twilight Zone. And yet others are well developed, genuinely interesting, and have realistic-sounding dialogue that fits the story while simultaneously moving it forward.
I’m torn about the ending. Many people hated it for its abrupt conclusion, without any real explanation or tying up of loose ends. I’m a bit more forgiving than most, if only because I was ready to let the characters go by that point. The mystery was solved, at least for the most part. Let’s pack up the band and go home.
So, in conclusion: this isn’t a perfect book, but it does keep you reading. In the end, it offers a mix of good and bad entrées. Is there enough good to make it worth indulging yourself? I’d say so.
Rate: 6 out of 10.