The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer

Military suspense thrillers have been popular for years, yet I have seldom read any. I decided to change this by stepping lightly into this genre. The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer may not be considered a strict military suspense thriller, but there is a definite military feel since the majority of this book takes place on or near Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Add in a compelling story line, missing people, and high levels of secrecy and I was hooked.

The Escape Artist tells the story of Jim ‘Zig’ Zigarowski and his quest to find out what really happened to Nola Brown. Nola Brown was on a flight from Alaska when the plane mysteriously fell from the sky. All on the plane perished and Nola’s body was found not far from the crash site. Mysteries surround this crash as one of the President’s very close friends was on board: the Librarian of Congress. Tasked with finding out what happened, Zig soon finds all of the bodies from the crash delivered to him at the morgue at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. With identities already confirmed by their supervisors, Zig and his colleagues are expected to perform the autopsies as quick as possible and get the bodies back to the families.

When looking at Nola’s body, Zig discovers that there is no way that the body in front of him could be that of Nola Brown. Nola was a childhood friend of Zig’s daughter. A long time ago, Nola saved Zig’s daughter’s life. As a result of that, Nola has a tell-tale scar that Zig knows to look for on Nola. Discovering that it isn’t there and knowing that there wouldn’t be a cosmetic way to make that disappear, Zig realizes that Nola is still alive. The question of why someone would go through such steps to say that this body is Nola’s nags at Zig. He decides that he has to find Nola, if for no other reason than to pay her back for the time that she saved his daughter’s life.

Nola is supposed to be dead. With some investigating, Zig digs into Nola’s past and tries to learn what in her life caused people to want to kill her. He discovers that Nola is a mystery, her previous supervisors believe that she is a curse and trouble follows her everywhere. Looking into these incidents, it becomes clear why the Army chooses to sequester Nola as their artist-in-residence. This keeps her out of the line of fire and hopefully decreases her tendency to bring trouble to any situation.

Nola’s current job allows her to travel the world to any location and any catastrophe in order to make art and observe. Each artist-in-residence has a theme to their artwork throughout their residency. As Zig looks around, he discovers that Nola’s missions may have triggered the notice of an enemy who will do whatever it takes to silence her. Zig and Nola find themselves thrown together on a journey to discover the truth behind a centuries-old conspiracy that reaches all the way up to the highest levels of government and involves an unlikely partner: Harry Houdini.

Here’s to hoping that Brad Metzler turns this book into a series! I’d love to find out what happens with Zig and Nola next.


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Suspect by Robert Crais

suspectScott and Maggie are new partners in the LAPD but they have a lot more than that in common – both are a mess after barely surviving brutal attacks that left their former partners dead, both suffer from severe PTSD and both are close to unfit for duty. The fact that Scott is a human and Maggie is a dog does not change that fact that they are just what the other needs in Suspect by Robert Crais.

Officer Scott James has just returned to work, still physically recovering from gunshot wounds that have forced him to give up his goal of joining the elite SWAT squad. He is haunted by memories of the night of the attack, when masked gunmen launched a surprise attack on a passing car, then turned on Scott and his partner when they tried to stop them. The cries of his dying partner calling for him as he lay helpless as his own life nearly bled out, rerun in his dreams every night. Desperate to find justice for his partner, he refuses a medical discharge and finds a position in the K-9 Unit where, he believes, he won’t have to worry letting down a partner again.

Maggie has survived three tours of Iran and Afghanistan, saving hundreds of grunts with her IED sniffing talent until a suicide bomber kills her handler and snipers nearly kill her when she refuses to stop guarding his body; the Marines are only able to drag her away by throwing a jacket over her and manhandling her into the rescuing helicopter. No longer able to serve in the military and wary and suspicious of everyone, the LAPD may be Maggie’s last chance.

Award-winning author Robert Crais  (best known for his Elvis Cole mysteries) is a master storyteller, showing how these two damaged beings fight back and help and learn from each other using language that is lean yet evocative – you can feel the heat of Los Angeles, the terror of Scott’s panic attacks, Maggie’s joy as she accepts Scott. The information about the training and deployment of police and military dogs is fascinating but never overwhelms the story and the final chapters, where Scott and Maggie work together to bring Scott’s attacker’s to justice, are tense and action-packed.