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
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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.

  • Dave Milbrandt

    I received a complimentary copy of The Escape Artist from Grand Central Publishing in an exchange for an honest review of its merits.

    One of the nice thing about your favorite authors is that when you pick up a copy of their latest work you pretty much know what you are getting. Sue Grafton gave us detective stories, John Grisham (with a couple notable exceptions) spins a good legal tale, Kristin Hannah is going to dig deep into your soul and make you yell or cry, or both. Nicolas Sparks will tel

    I received a complimentary copy of The Escape Artist from Grand Central Publishing in an exchange for an honest review of its merits.

    One of the nice thing about your favorite authors is that when you pick up a copy of their latest work you pretty much know what you are getting. Sue Grafton gave us detective stories, John Grisham (with a couple notable exceptions) spins a good legal tale, Kristin Hannah is going to dig deep into your soul and make you yell or cry, or both. Nicolas Sparks will tell you of uncommon love and the characters in a Joel Green novel are nigh unto bursting with angst.

    And Brad Meltzer is the name you look for when you want a really good mystery about hidden secrets but you don't want to say up for days questioning all of human history. If that's what you want, you knock on Dan Brown's door.

    Meltzer has become the go-to guy for a fun, fast-paced thriller that most often includes people searching for obscure clues about an ancient mystery.

    But in the acknowledgements of The Escape Artist, Meltzer tells you something profound happened to him when he was touring with the USO six years ago make him "realize the difference between being alive and actually living." While this sounds like fortune-cookie wisdom, it is much more than that for this best-selling author. Meltzer is a changed man and it shows in his writing.

    Don't get me wrong. He's not waxing poetic about the banality of the human condition or anything. There is definitely the thrill and mystery that is coded into the DNA of any Brad Meltzer title. But that's not all that's there.

    In The Escape Artist, the mystery in this tale takes a backseat to character development. Nola and Zig are deeply wounded people and we spend a lot of time in their skin watching new bumps and bruises being added atop the old scars that may be faded but still are tender to the touch. Some of the scratches are on the surface, but others cut much deeper.

    And while Meltzer respected the source material for his earlier stories, there is a reverence here for the heart-wrenching pain and heart-warming honor that comes with caring for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.

    So, by the time the actual mystery is fully fleshed out deep in the third act, you're not really bothered by the fact because you've been drawn into the story of these two people who've been drawn together by fate more than once.

    In this work, Meltzer's storytelling prowess is transformed into something altogether new. He is deeper and more introspective than he has been before. I'm not sure if his next tale will take us back to familiar territory of long-forgotten secrets and stashes of hidden wealth, but I, for one, am hopeful that Meltzer is speaking of himself when his protagonist realizes that "[s]ometimes you need to bury your old life-and make a new one."

  • Diane

    The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer is another excellent book! Once you have read his books and become intrigued with the characters and then the mystery of his plot, you are hooked! There is fast-paced action, interesting history, and thrilling suspense.

    The opening scene starts with a small plane going down in Copper Center, Alaska. There is a special US Government dignitary onboard. Among the passengers, one woman was going to take a chance for survival. Was the crash an accident?

    Meanwhile, at

    The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer is another excellent book! Once you have read his books and become intrigued with the characters and then the mystery of his plot, you are hooked! There is fast-paced action, interesting history, and thrilling suspense.

    The opening scene starts with a small plane going down in Copper Center, Alaska. There is a special US Government dignitary onboard. Among the passengers, one woman was going to take a chance for survival. Was the crash an accident?

    Meanwhile, at Dover Air Force Base, Jim or "Zig" Zigarowski is wheeling a gurney into a high tech surgical room for the mortuary. The same space reserved for US governments top secret and high profile cases. Zig had a mission, a heart of compassion, to perform the final act of mercy for a fallen hero and their family. He would treat the remains with dignity and often talk to the body as he worked to reconstruct shattered faces and bodies so the loved ones who came for burial would not have to see the brutality or severity of the incident which took their life. One this day his heart was heavy. The body under the sheet was someone he had known years ago.

    Sgt.1st Class Nola Brown was the first casualty from the crashed plane in Alaska. Zig remembered Nola as the young girl who had pushed his daughter from a firey accident when they were on a Girl Scout outing. Nola had jumped, pushing his daughter Maggie aside and took the impact of an exploding soda can which had been thrown into the campfire. Poor Nola, even though part of her ear was torn away, the silent child held quiet while tears ran down her face as she received forty stitches during the ER repair.

    Now years later Zig is looking at Nola's left ear and sees, although it has been chared, there is no scar from the childhood surgery. How can that be? This is not Nola!

    I won't post spoilers, but it is hard not to spill so many interesting scenes and the plots in this book. I started reading at bedtime last night and heard my Kindle hit the floor as I fell asleep. Then after breakfast this morning I found that Kindle and went to the couch with a second pot of coffee.

    I loved the characters of Zig, Master Guns, and Nola! The subject matter of the special treatment for our fallen heroes is enlightening and of course very sad. In this book, you will learn tidbits of history which may take you completely by surprise. The intertwining of history with modern warfare is scary cool.

    Read and enjoy the fast ride!

    (Thank you NetGalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book)

  • Ms. Just One More Book  (Kris Miller)

    ~ 4.5 stars ~

    Jim “Zig” Zigarowski lovingly puts to rest our fallen men and women at Dover Air Force Base. With each piece he puts back together, he likes to think he also puts back a piece of his shattered heart. So, when Zig sees the name Nola Brown come across his desk after a plane crash claiming seven lives, he breaks both the military’s and his own rules for the chance to work on the girl who saved his daughter’s life, giving him an additional eleven months to spend with his now deceased da

    ~ 4.5 stars ~

    Jim “Zig” Zigarowski lovingly puts to rest our fallen men and women at Dover Air Force Base. With each piece he puts back together, he likes to think he also puts back a piece of his shattered heart. So, when Zig sees the name Nola Brown come across his desk after a plane crash claiming seven lives, he breaks both the military’s and his own rules for the chance to work on the girl who saved his daughter’s life, giving him an additional eleven months to spend with his now deceased daughter. There’s only one problem; upon beginning his job he finds that the woman laying before him is not Nola. Further befuddling, is that three people signed off that she was. A note found hidden on the unidentified woman’s body confirms that Nola saw something on a mission she shouldn’t of; a mission named Operation Bluebook dating back to the days of Harry Houdini, and one that may get Nola killed for real next time. Near broken characters are at the heart of this high-octane suspense thriller amidst a web of deceit and lies. The Escape Artist is a fast-paced, heart-stopping read that will keep you up until the wee hours of the morning.

    ~ Kris Miller, TopShelf Reviews

  • 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

    .

  • Mark

    I remember the first time I read a book by Brad Meltzer. I came across a copy of THE ZERO GAME on a discount shelf, thought it sounded interesting and so I bought it. I was pleasantly surprised after reading it how good it was since not all discount books are. I enjoyed it enough that I began seeking out his books and reading them, never disappointed at any. So when I heard this was coming out I was looking forward to it.

    The story involves a mortician named Jim "Zig" Zigarowski who works for the

    I remember the first time I read a book by Brad Meltzer. I came across a copy of THE ZERO GAME on a discount shelf, thought it sounded interesting and so I bought it. I was pleasantly surprised after reading it how good it was since not all discount books are. I enjoyed it enough that I began seeking out his books and reading them, never disappointed at any. So when I heard this was coming out I was looking forward to it.

    The story involves a mortician named Jim "Zig" Zigarowski who works for the U.S. government at Dover Air Force Base. Those he normally takes care of are soldiers killed in battle. But the latest deceased to cross his table is familiar to him, so much so that when he saw the name he made a point of being assigned to deal with this body. The woman in question had died on a plane crash in Alaska, the cause of which was still undetermined. The victim’s name was Nola Brown and Jim knows her from his past.

    Nola was a friend of sorts with his deceased daughter. She had come to the girls rescue at a camping retreat, cutting her ear in the process and requiring stitches. But this body doesn’t have those identifying marks on her ear. So just who is this person and why are they hear? When Zigarowski opens the body he finds another mysterious item, a note that the victim wrote and swallowed as the plane was going down. Soon Zigarowski is searching to find the real Nola Brown, to find out what became of her all those years ago after she moved away and why someone attempted to kill her on that plane.

    At the same time we get to understand and know Nola Brown as she tries to avoid being found by those who were trying to kill her. The U.S. Army's artist-in-residence painter has layers beneath the surface that no one knows, life skills that make her both a formidable opponent and a deadly killer. A solitary figure by choice she wants to get to the bottom of things and find out who killed the woman who took her place on that plane.

    Along the way their paths cross and they help one another. But who is behind it all? What reason did they have for bringing down that airplane, a plane that included a member of the President’s cabinet? And will Zigarowski and Brown be able to discover that answer and remain alive at the same time?

    As with all of Meltzer’s thrillers this one provides the clues in glimpses from chapter to chapter, back and forth from one character to the other as it winds its way to a satisfying conclusion. The characters feel real, especially in Zigarowski who has a secret of his own, a pain from his past that influences his life to this very day.

    Meltzer has always had a gift for taking what could be a mundane situation and weaving in various plots and subplots that tie nicely into the story taking place. He continues that here with images from both Zigarowski’s and Brown’s past with chapters going back in time but tied into the present, things that made both who they are.

    The end result is a satisfying thriller that will hold your interest until the last page. And like most Meltzer books you’ll find that you’re bound to lose track of time while reading, enjoying every word.

  • 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.

  • Karin Schott

    I read it all the way through because I am trying to get a jump on my reading goal while life is slow. The buzz was that this was going to be a breakout novel for Meltzer. High profile blurbs on the cover. Nola being compared to Salander....blah blah blah...

    PUH-LEASE! Marketing just...just stop!

    Okay, what do Nola and Salander have in common? There is some ability that sets them apart. They were abused as children. They are antisocial. Well, gee.

    Let's make something clear. No one can do Salander

    I read it all the way through because I am trying to get a jump on my reading goal while life is slow. The buzz was that this was going to be a breakout novel for Meltzer. High profile blurbs on the cover. Nola being compared to Salander....blah blah blah...

    PUH-LEASE! Marketing just...just stop!

    Okay, what do Nola and Salander have in common? There is some ability that sets them apart. They were abused as children. They are antisocial. Well, gee.

    Let's make something clear. No one can do Salander like Larsen. Even the new author of the millenium series portrays Salander as a cartoon of the original character. She was a complicated character. Her story was twisty and dark. She was so antisocial you felt bad for her. She was damaged. Her whole story was told over three books. Larsen really developed her plot.

    I just could not feel the same amount of sympathy for Nola. Salandar had Blomkvist. Nola has her hero too and I liked that character more than Nola. His story was compelling.

    I like a good thriller. Not sure this one has the strength to pull it off. Too formulaic.

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