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Book Review: The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer

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The Book of Fate is a gripping political thriller surrounding a failed assassination on the president. Wes Holloway is a cocky, young Presidential aide whose life is changed forever when he is disfigured and another staff member is killed in a failed attempt on the president's life. Eight years later, the supposedly dead staff member reappears, setting the events of the story in motion.

The plot moves quickly as Holloway struggles to untangle the events surrounding the assassination. Meltzer masterfully offers up a variety of red herrings, and keeps the reader guessing until the end. The book is short on shoot 'em up action, but events move at a steady clip and the mystery is intriguing enough to keep the reader engaged.

The character of Wes Holloway is different from most main characters in thrillers. When we first meet him, he's a smug, cocky young jerk. For the rest of the book, he's a neurotic, insecure underachiever who blames himself for the death of a member of the president's core group. He's wimpy and he knows it, and he's bright, but not a genius. This actually serves to make Wes an interesting character, and a true underdog. He's periodically annoying, but for the most part the reader finds himself rooting for Wes to regain his old swagger. Also, his lack of capabilities adds to the suspense. Will this unlikely character really outwit the bad guys and save the day?

The negative aspect for me is the plot's lack of depth. The book jacket alludes to an ancient Masonic secret, and gives other hints that The Book of Fate will be an adventure along the lines of National Treasure. Unfortunately, aside from the delusions of a murderous psychopath, the Mason angle is almost entirely unexplored, and plays a tiny, though important, role at the end of the story. I expected the story to be imbued with history and legend, but it comes across as an afterthought, and a minor one at that.

The Book of Fate is an enjoyable read for fans of political thrillers, but don't look for historical puzzles, codes, or mysteries to be central to the plot. As long as you know what you're in for at the outset, it's a worthwhile read.

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