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The Book of Lies
Grand Central Publishing 2008
336 pages Hardcover
Brad Meltzer is a good writer but The Book of Lies is really not as good as its author. This mystery is interesting, often energetic, but too cryptic for its own good and unfair to the reader.
Everything should work for the reader in The Book of Lies: the characters are well defined; the many supporting characters are brought in gradually so you do not feel like you need a scorecard; the events are interesting, well paced, and well sequenced; and the premise is an original variation on ye olde biblical document that bears the secret to some great power and has been lost for generations.
Brad Meltzer is pretty adroit at juggling ye olde biblical document, a secret and powerful organization, a series of father / son relationships, a few mysterious characters, and the true origins of the Superman comic book.
Unfortunately he asks a bit too much of the reader with all these various elements and characters put together. The Cain and Abel premise connects to a secret society which connects to the Third Reich and there's a Russian soldier that connects to Jerry Siegel creating Superman and hiding clues to centuries old stuff and the identity of his father's murderer which connects a son and his lost father in modern times.
The Book of Lies is not convincing enough. Its basic structure is background information followed by characters A, B and C getting to a location only to be preceded or immediately followed by characters D and E and sometimes F. Repeat a few times.
Most difficult though is the reader is not given anything to solve the mystery before the main characters take three or four serious cracks at it. Because of the nature of the mystery, the hidden message in a series of Superman comic book pages there is no way the reader can solve this one before the slow reveals.
The final reveal in this Brad Meltzer novel is a disappointing afterthought and Hallmark stuff.
The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer is for fans a wait for the paperback mystery. For non fans, I would not start with this one.