Brad Meltzer's bold, outlandish plots out-Da Vinci Code The Da Vinci Code. His novels revolve around secrets so important that national security and even the United States would be in danger if not for the help of a plucky ordinary person caught up in machinations beyond his ken.
But Meltzer infuses his audacious plots with believability thanks to his meticulous research and likable, realistic characters. His ability to expound on a historical footnote shines as his eighth novel, The Inner Circle, delves into secret spy rings, political conspiracies and a behind-the-scenes look at the National Archives.
Lonely archivist Beecher White attempts to impress Clementine Kaye, his childhood crush, by showing her the special room reserved for President Orson Wallace during a tour of the National Archives. But the tour quickly becomes a matter of national security when the pair find a 200-year-old dictionary that may have been used by George Washington to communicate with the Culper Ring, his secret spy organization. The Culper Ring, which did exist, may have been used by scores of presidents to find out secret information to protect the United States.
Before Beecher and Clementine can decide what to do with the book, a security guard is found dead and they are being stalked by members of the present-day Culper Ring. Ostensibly, Clementine had contacted her old friend in hopes that the National Archives would hold a clue to her long-lost father, who turns out to be a mental patient who tried to assassinate President Wallace.
Meltzer skillfully shows that conspiracy theories aren't a modern invention but have been a part of the U.S. government since Washington's days. The author weaves well-known historical facts with lesser-known details and even humorous mistakes housed in the National Archives.
Meltzer spares no historical accuracy in this briskly paced novel. He is also tackling historical legends in Brad Meltzer's Decoded, airing Thursdays on TV's History channel.