The Escape Artist

The Escape Artist

In #1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer's new thriller, death is just another way to disappear.Two hours outside of Washington, DC is the mortuary for the U.S. government's most top-secret and high profile cases. America's most important funeral home. To work there, mortician Jim "Zig" Zwicharowski has one rule: never let a case get personal. But when a new body arrives--of...

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Title:The Escape Artist
Author:Brad Meltzer
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Escape Artist Reviews

  • Monnie

    Murder, deeply hidden political secrets, interesting but emotionally scarred characters and a unique setting - who could ask for more? Me, actually; I'm thinking (make that hoping) this marks the start of a great new series.

    The intriguing setting is Dover Air Force Base, where exceptionally talented mortician and beekeeper Jim "Zig" Zigarowski lovingly works on the bodies of fallen soldiers and not a few of the U.S. government's high-profile deaths (bringing to mind a male take on Patricia Corn

    Murder, deeply hidden political secrets, interesting but emotionally scarred characters and a unique setting - who could ask for more? Me, actually; I'm thinking (make that hoping) this marks the start of a great new series.

    The intriguing setting is Dover Air Force Base, where exceptionally talented mortician and beekeeper Jim "Zig" Zigarowski lovingly works on the bodies of fallen soldiers and not a few of the U.S. government's high-profile deaths (bringing to mind a male take on Patricia Cornwell's medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta - a long-time favorite series of mine, BTW). As the story begins, a plane has crashed in a remote part of Alaska, killing everyone on board; among the bodies identified by the government and Zig's superiors is Sgt. Nola Brown. Turns out Zig knows her from 10-or-so years ago, when she saved the life of Zig's daughter. But as he begins to restore her body to viewing order, he realizes that the woman he's working on definitely is not Nola.

    But if not Nola, who? Why are the powers-that-be intent on making the rest of the world believe it's her? And perhaps more important, where is the real Nola and what is she up to? Because of his past connection, Zig is determined to find her and get to the truth despite warnings from the people he considers to be his friends.

    What he first learns is that Nola held an enviable position - that of artist-in-residence for the U.S. Army. As a highly trained soldier, she goes into battle zones to create realistic and minds-eye paintings of scenes that showcase details even photographs may not reveal. Most likely, Zig concludes, it was Nola's observations in the Alaska wilderness that made her a target. Following that lead, however, puts Zig himself (surprise!) in places he probably shouldn't be, thus in the crosshairs of some very dangerous people - and conjures up top-secret historical connections between the government and the late Harry Houdini, considered by many to be the world's greatest (insert book title here). It also puts him at odds with Nola herself, who is less than thrilled at being reminded of anything from her troubled past, which readers learn about via flashback chapters.

    The ending brings a few twists and offers a ray of hope that indeed, this will be a series; if so, I'll be among the first in line when the next installment is available. Meantime, many thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this one in exchange for an honest review.

  • The Real Book Spy

    That’s the question readers will ask themselves as Brad Meltzer’s latest high-octane thriller,

    , kicks off.

    Officially, Nola Brown is dead. Her body was found among others after a devastating plane crash. Her commanding officer confirms Nola’s death, as does the United States government. So, too, does Jim Zigarowski’s boss, who signed off, triple-checking that the body arriving at Dover Air Force Base was, in

    That’s the question readers will ask themselves as Brad Meltzer’s latest high-octane thriller,

    , kicks off.

    Officially, Nola Brown is dead. Her body was found among others after a devastating plane crash. Her commanding officer confirms Nola’s death, as does the United States government. So, too, does Jim Zigarowski’s boss, who signed off, triple-checking that the body arriving at Dover Air Force Base was, in fact, that of Nola Brown.

    There’s just one problem.

    Nola Brown isn’t dead. . .

    Zigarowski, who goes by “Zig,” the Port Mortuary Branch Chief at Dover, spends each day with fallen troops. His job goes far beyond conducting autopsies. The bodies that arrive at Dover often need delicate care in order to be pieced back together. When parents, spouses, and children come to claim the remains of their beloved soldiers, they often want to see the body. And it’s Zig’s job to make sure the fallen look the way people remember them so that their families can have the proper closure they need.

    — it’s an important part of the grieving process, something Zig knows all too well.

    So when bodies come in missing limbs, Zig works his magic, sculpting new ones out of clay. When their faces are ripped apart by shrapnel or burned beyond recognition, Zig applies makeup to make them look like their old selves. It’s a job he does with love, and something he takes very seriously. When it comes to restoring broken, ripped-apart flesh, there’s nobody better than Jim Zigarowski. In fact, it seems as though Zig is able to restore everyone. . . but himself.

    Deep down, Zig is a broken man, having never recovered from the day his daughter, Maggie, his only child, tragically passed away.

    What begins as an ordinary day quickly turns into anything but. Zig purposely signed up to work on Nola’s body. When her name first appeared on the list of victims from the plane crash, he recognized it immediately. Checking to make sure it was the same Nola he knew from nearly fifteen years ago was simple. Zig has plenty of security access, and for those rare times his clearance level isn’t high enough, well, he’s got friends in high places with enough juice to get the info he needs. Including this time, when he confirmed that this Nola Brown is the same Nola Brown from his hometown. . . the same Nola who once bravely, selflessly, did something for Maggie that Zig would never forget.

    But as he gets to work repairing the body, Zig quickly realizes it’s not Nola. It can’t be. He’s able to confirm as such by running the deceased’s fingerprints. But why, he wonders, would someone try to pawn this body off as Nola Brown?

    Surely, it couldn’t be an accident. The triple-check system is in place for this very reason. Someone–several people, actually–had to sign off on the soldier’s identification. Determined to get answers, Zig starts poking around. Going back to the body, he finds a chilling secret message intended for Nola, confirming that she is, indeed, out there. . . and that she’s in serious danger.

    Putting his life on the line, Zig decides to risk everything in order to try and find Nola so he can deliver the hidden message before it’s too late. But his search raises more questions than answers, especially when he finds out that the plane Nola supposedly died on took off from a secret military base in Alaska. As he presses on, Zig eventually discovers a centuries-old conspiracy that can be traced all the way back to the world’s most famous escape artist of all time: Harry Houdini.

    Meltzer has a gift for turning average Joes into unlikely heroes. He’s done it throughout his career, most notably with his Beecher White series (which by the way, seems to be set in the same universe as Zig and Nola–Meltzer’s fans will recognize a cameo from a certain president) and 2016’s The

    . There’s also nobody better when it comes to mixing in historical facts with nail-biting fiction.

    Zig, like so many of us, is just an average guy who cares about his job and walks around with a big hole in his heart. He’s vulnerable, honest, and cares about doing the right thing, almost to a fault. He feels like he owes Nola, and that drives him onward. He’s wonderfully developed, and Meltzer portrays him in a way that makes Zig relatable, real, and compelling. But even so, Nola is the star here, and trust me, the less you know about her heading into this one the better.

    In fact, all you really need to know is this: Nola Brown is Meltzer’s strongest female character yet, and when it’s all said and done, she’ll stand among the year’s best new characters. Period.

    While he’s done it all–from penning New York Times bestsellers to hosting multiple hit television shows–Meltzer hasn’t ever written anything quite like his latest book.

    is thrilling, yet full of soul. It’ll entertain you, and teach you. It’ll have you cheering, but it’ll also grip you emotionally. When you’re on the brink of tears, Meltzer makes you laugh. Toss in nonstop suspense, blind-siding twists and turns, a fascinating conspiracy, plenty of action. . . and you’ve got a story unlike anything else currently sitting on bookstore shelves, and a story that only Brad Meltzer could tell.

    So, who is Nola Brown?

    Find out on March 6th when Brad Meltzer’s must-read new novel,

    , hits bookstores everywhere.

    Author: Brad Meltzer

    Series: Nola Brown #1

    Pages: 434 (Hardcover)

    ISBN: 1455559520

    Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

    Release Date: March 6, 2018

    Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10

    Order Now:

    Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

  • Michael Slavin

    Wow! This book was very good. Again since I am writing thrillers, I noticed better than any book I have read so far is that each chapter really stops on a cliff hanger. Meltzer has done a great job of not letting you put his book down because you want to know what happens as he leaves you in suspense.

    It is a great story with three unique leading characters. You will dive deeply into SSG Nola Brown's character. Her cruel father guardian and the man that feels he owes her.

    But beyond the story you'

    Wow! This book was very good. Again since I am writing thrillers, I noticed better than any book I have read so far is that each chapter really stops on a cliff hanger. Meltzer has done a great job of not letting you put his book down because you want to know what happens as he leaves you in suspense.

    It is a great story with three unique leading characters. You will dive deeply into SSG Nola Brown's character. Her cruel father guardian and the man that feels he owes her.

    But beyond the story you'll learn about Dover AFB and how our fallen soldiers are treated if they die in the service of their country. You'll also learn a little history, and a little about magic.

    Excellent read. I really enjoyed this book.

    Mike

  • Matt

    Brad Meltzer is back with another thriller to appease his adult fans. With a story that dazzles and characters whose lives enrich the storytelling, the wait for this gem seems justifiable. Jim “Zig” Zigarowski works as a civilian mortician at the Dover Air Force Base, having seen much during his long career. After a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, the bodies begin their return for final preparation before being released to the families. While one of the victims is the Librarian of Congres

    Brad Meltzer is back with another thriller to appease his adult fans. With a story that dazzles and characters whose lives enrich the storytelling, the wait for this gem seems justifiable. Jim “Zig” Zigarowski works as a civilian mortician at the Dover Air Force Base, having seen much during his long career. After a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, the bodies begin their return for final preparation before being released to the families. While one of the victims is the Librarian of Congress, a close friend of POTUS, Zig is most interested in Sergeant Nola Brown. Memories from his past flood back as Zig remembers Zola from an excursion with his now-deceased daughter. Nola was a very quiet girl with a troubled past, though Zig remembers her heroics above all else. Zig’s investigation and preparation of the body seems to raise some red flags and a rushed identification leaves him to wonder if someone is trying to participate in a cover-up back in Alaska. Add to that, a note in the body’s stomach and Zig is sure that Nola is not the one before him, but why?! When the body is intercepted at Dover and the actual Nora emerges, Zig realises that there is a significant mystery surrounding the plane crash and those on the passenger list, including three individuals whose names have ties to the famous Harry Houdini. With Zig and Nora working together, they discover that something called Operation: Bluebook, which could be the impetus for the crash. The original Bluebook refers to a plan hatched by Houdini when he travelled into towns with his own team in the audience, garnering information to be used on stage. Learning that both their lives remain in danger, Zig and Nora work to uncover what’s been going on before they suffer the same fate as the others. Tying the clues together and discovering the Houdini inference, Zig and Nora try to remain one step ahead of this US Government covert sleight of hand. Another well-crafted novel by Meltzer that is recommended to his fans and those who want a little magic with their reading experience.

    I have long enjoyed Brad Meltzer and his writing style, though I did sigh and shook my head when he turned to writing more for children. However, looking back on it, the anticipation of his thriller novels builds and this one was worth the wait. I am eager to see what else he has in store for Zig in the coming years, should this novel receive the praise it is due. It would appear that the Zig character is the start to a new series, which has some real potential, mixing civilian and military aspects quite effectively and Meltzer’s attention to detail is a significant help. Meltzer does a wonderful job creating a thorough backstory for Zig, especially as it relates to his daughter and the tragedy that befell her. The reader can feel a strong connection, while also being at ease with Zig’s current position as a mortician. Nola Brown’s character receives significant backstory throughout this novel as well, usually in the form of flashback chapters, which flesh out some of the nuances in her personality and explain that sense of independence. Her development in a ‘foster home’ becomes a central thread, as does her development into the woman she began when Zig met her again. There is surely much to be said about Nola and her resilience. Secondary characters are peppered throughout, which provides the reader with a pathway for better understanding how the story will develop. Meltzer adds his own flavour to these folks, injecting historical aspects as well as his own unique characteristics. The story and its delivery are stellar and keep the reader connected throughout, weaving together a few storylines to keep the reader guessing until the very end. Meltzer uses his love of history and intricate detail to fuel this piece, educating the reader as often as possible while not burdening them with too many intricacies that might slow things down. Well-paced chapters and those powerful flashbacks of Nola provide all that the reader needs to feel drawn to the story while hoping for another one in the near future. This is a successful reemergence for Meltzer, whose adult fans are surely pleased to see him back!

    Kudos, Mr. Meltzer, for another wonderful piece of writing. I can only hope you’ll capture the attention of your fans and remind them why you are top of your genre.

    Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

    A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

  • Linda

    "What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes." (Harry Houdini)

    Brad Meltzer opens this story with a military plane going down over the Alaskan wilderness. A female soldier stands poised before the open door hatch ready to jump into the unknown abyss. With screeching wind and shaking limbs, we feel the demanding pressure right alongside her. That fatal jump........

    Meltzer then introduces us to Jim "Zig" Zigarowski, a dedicated mortician at Dover Air Force Base, who stands in the ready t

    "What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes." (Harry Houdini)

    Brad Meltzer opens this story with a military plane going down over the Alaskan wilderness. A female soldier stands poised before the open door hatch ready to jump into the unknown abyss. With screeching wind and shaking limbs, we feel the demanding pressure right alongside her. That fatal jump........

    Meltzer then introduces us to Jim "Zig" Zigarowski, a dedicated mortician at Dover Air Force Base, who stands in the ready to receive the fallen military. It is Zig who painstakingly works to restore each soldier to the best of his ability as grieving families await their loved ones. We will follow the actions of Zig throughout this book as he oversteps the bounds of his profession. Big-time steps, dear readers.

    Zig receives the broken body of Nola Brown, US Army's Artist-in Residence. But what catches Zig's eye is the fact that he remembers Nola from long ago. Nola was a childhood friend of his daughter. It was Nola who saved Maggie's life and the brave act cost Nola the top of her ear. This corpse has two perfect ears. Yet, the dog tags and paperwork indicate that this is suppose to be THAT Nola Brown.

    Needless to say, Zig will be on the hunt to try to uncover the powers that be behind this fiasco. Meltzer makes sure to ratchet up the stakes in this government shell game and who, exactly, is pulling the strings?

    The storyline will flit back and forth from the present to the past while showcasing Nola's abusive childhood. Nola was severely affected by her "tour" of the foster care experience over and over throughout the years. Survival meant learning to adapt to the most heinous of conditions. Those life lessons simply bled into adulthood. Nola certainly learned to pack it down emotionally and to draw on it when needed. Much needed.

    This was my first experience reading a Brad Meltzer novel. The man knows how to punch out a story. Will be back for more, Mr. Meltzer. Most certainly.

  • Larry H

    I'm between 4 and 4.5 stars here.

    It's amazing to think that it's been nearly 22 years since Brad Meltzer burst on the scene with his first book,

    . I remember him being quite the wunderkind at the time, and I even went to a book signing at one of those long-defunct bookstore chains, either B. Dalton or Waldenbooks. (Remember those?)

    Every single one of his novels since then has made the bestseller list, but somewhere along the way I couldn't keep up with him, so it has been a wh

    I'm between 4 and 4.5 stars here.

    It's amazing to think that it's been nearly 22 years since Brad Meltzer burst on the scene with his first book,

    . I remember him being quite the wunderkind at the time, and I even went to a book signing at one of those long-defunct bookstore chains, either B. Dalton or Waldenbooks. (Remember those?)

    Every single one of his novels since then has made the bestseller list, but somewhere along the way I couldn't keep up with him, so it has been a while since I read one of his books. But his upcoming novel,

    , is already getting quite a bit of buzz, so I figured I'd see what the fuss is about. This is a great thriller, full of twists and turns and sensational action, but it also has some great character development and packs an emotional punch.

    Jim "Zig" Zigarowski is a mortician. Some call him a genius, because he can repair significant damage to a body, making it possible for families to view their loved one and not have any idea just how badly the body really looked. He spends his days in perhaps the most important funeral home in the country, at Dover Air Force Base, where he is responsible for handling the bodies of American soldiers who died in the line of duty, as well as those injured in catastrophes such as 9/11.

    After a military plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness with some important VIPs on board, Zig knows Dover will be getting the bodies. And while the victims include the head of the Library of Congress, it's one particular victim that catches Zig's attention—Sergeant First Class Nola Brown. Nola knew Zig's daughter when they were younger, and saved her from a potentially life-threatening injury one night, but she disappeared shortly thereafter. Zig is determined to do right by Nola—and then he finds out it isn't her body in the coffin shipped to Dover.

    So if Nola is alive, what happened to her? And why is everyone ready to believe she is dead? Zig can't stop from digging into the truth, especially when he finds a clue that Nola might have known what was happening that fateful day in Alaska. But the more he investigates, the more he finds himself entangled in a web of conspiracy, crime, violence, and potential scandal, which can be traced back to some of the highest positions in the U.S. government. And the more he digs, the more danger he puts himself in, as well as those around him, because those looking for Nola are always one step ahead.

    But Zig also finds that Nola brings trouble wherever she goes. She's not interested in being found, nor is she interested in Zig's help. She doesn't care about the connection they shared—she simply wants to follow the trail that led to the plane crash, wants to understand who was responsible, and what they were into. She's utterly unprepared, however, for just who is involved.

    "The deepest wounds—the ones that pierce you to your core—they heal, but they never disappear."

    is a top-notch thriller, but it's also a book about loss, pain, recovery, regret, and the physical and emotional scars we bear. Zig and Nola are fascinating characters, both tremendously stubborn yet vulnerable at the same time, although Nola seems a bit of a sociopath as well. The book shifts between the present and Nola's childhood, to illustrate the events which shaped her attitude and the armor she has built around herself.

    There are a lot of characters with nicknames (The Curtain, Houdini, Horatio, Master Guns) to keep straight at times, and I'm still not 100 percent sure that I fully understood the operation that Nola and Zig uncovered. I also felt that the villain went on a bit too long in his dramatic "here's why I did what I did speech," a la the villains in superhero movies. But those were minor irritations, because I just felt the story was fascinating, and Meltzer delivered some fantastic action scenes and crazy twists and turns.

    I imagine you'll see this one a lot over the next few months, so be sure to pick it up when it is released in March!

    NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

    See all of my reviews at

    , or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at

    .

  • Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    I have read books by Brad Meltzer previously and know that he will once again deliver a thrilling and mysterious story. And I was right. I was also delighted that the story included a Harry Houdini angle!

    Who is Nora Brown? Who is this woman that is killed when an airplane crashed? I have to admit that I did not read the blurb before I read the book which meant that I did not know much about the plot. Which when I now know what the blurb reveals makes me very glad. I liked being surprised, I like

    I have read books by Brad Meltzer previously and know that he will once again deliver a thrilling and mysterious story. And I was right. I was also delighted that the story included a Harry Houdini angle!

    Who is Nora Brown? Who is this woman that is killed when an airplane crashed? I have to admit that I did not read the blurb before I read the book which meant that I did not know much about the plot. Which when I now know what the blurb reveals makes me very glad. I liked being surprised, I like starting a book knowing next to nothing about a book. That's also what I try to do when I write reviews, trying to explain how good a book is without giving away too much. That's why thrillers are the hardest reviews to write. Because you know spoilers...

    However, I will say this about this book, Jim "Zig" Zigarowski is the most unlikely, but likable hero I have read about in a while. Zig is a mortician, works at Dover Air Force Base and he realizes that the body of Nora Brown is someone he knows. A child that knew his daughter Maggie when she was little and still alive. And, he feels a responsibility for Nora, who once saves Maggie's life, one this the last stop of her journey. But, whiles preparing her does he make a startling discovery, that's not Nora...

    The Escape Artist is a thrilling and well-written mystery novel about a young woman that is supposed to be dead, but turns out to be very much alive. Alive and kicking and looking for answers. I found the book to be engrossing to read and I liked the team of Zig and Nora, a very unlikely team. However, that's probably why I liked them both so much. It's a great book that I recommend warmly.

  • BrocheAroe

    Clever and accurate title. Well-written thriller, plot-wise. But it's entirely a book written by a man that is supposed to be about a woman but is actually about a man instead. The marketing is well-done but inaccurate. This book is about Zig, and tangentially about Nola Brown. It would be nice to actually read a book about Nola who sounds like she would be a fascinating character if she was ever described in a manner that was not in relation to another male. Perhaps we could see her thought pro

    Clever and accurate title. Well-written thriller, plot-wise. But it's entirely a book written by a man that is supposed to be about a woman but is actually about a man instead. The marketing is well-done but inaccurate. This book is about Zig, and tangentially about Nola Brown. It would be nice to actually read a book about Nola who sounds like she would be a fascinating character if she was ever described in a manner that was not in relation to another male. Perhaps we could see her thought process and development as a fully-realized human being and character, instead of how it relates solely to Zig's understanding or in relation to her adoptive father's moods.

    Also, in a book that addresses Nola's complexion almost purely through the racial slurs aimed at her by her adoptive father, I'm also not okay with how the assassin is described as Native American (though the author did deign to specify a tribe in there, once - again, accompanied by stereotypical circumstances). If you're truly going to give voice to or raise up an indigenous person as a character, refer to them as their tribe, not the catch-all. Why make mention of a race at all, if that's the case? What depth did it add to the character? I despise writing peppered with characters of color simply to seem inclusive while actually singling that out as an exotic trait and perpetuating clichéd stereotypes.

    The plot holds up, though is predictable by the end. The rest does not.

  • Tim

    After a credible start, this story degenerates to bad, then worse. 0 of 10 stars

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