First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Brad Meltzer, Tod Goldberg, and Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.
Returning to the world of writing for adults, Meltzer brings Goldberg along on the journey in another thriller with historical implications. Jack Nash is the star of The House of Secrets, a long-running television program that has him searching for the deepest mysteries from around the world. Nash recounts the most curious of mysteries to Hazel, his six year-old daughter; a dead man who turns up with Benedict Arnold’s Bible hidden inside his sternum, sealed with a wax covering. Thirty years later, Jack and Hazel are in a serious automobile accident, leaving him dead and Hazel with severe amnesia. As she tries to piece her life back together, Hazel uses her father’s popular television show to bring some sense as to what her father sought to do for so many years and some of the mysteries he uncovered. She finds it more daunting than she thought at first, forcing her into a larger state of confusion than she could have fathomed. When an FBI agent shows up at her hospital bed, Hazel can only wonder if she, or her father, had a major secret that intrigued the government and seeks to spin through her memory to determine what might lie on the other side of the murky shards of her past. As things become a little clearer, Hazel begins to realise that her father was not the man she once thought and the story of the Arnold Bible may have more significance than a fable told at her father’s knee. As bodies begin to pile up, with hints that Jack Nash might have had dealings with them, Hazel works to uncover the largest mystery of all; that of her father’s life and this television program that brought him such notoriety. What do the pages of this Benedict Arnold Bible mean and how can she keep herself safe as people lurk in the shadows? An interesting turn on Meltzer’s conspiracy novels which has the potential of interest to his fans, though at times not as recognizable as his stellar work from the past.
While the premise for a strong novel can be found throughout the story, Meltzer’s sharp edge seems to have dulled. It is unclear whether Goldberg’s addition is the reason or that Meltzer has spent too much time trying to reveal heroes of the world to the next generation. With a cast of interesting characters and a strong female protagonist, Meltzer and Goldberg build much potential for the narrative, though it seems to limp along at places, even in the most riveting historical revelations. The Benedict Arnold idea is brilliant, as is The House of Secrets angle, though I could not find myself as excited or curious as I have been with many of Meltzer’s previous novels. One can hope that Meltzer will decide which path he wishes to take, as some adult novelists have been able to juggle writing in both worlds while others dwindle as they try to attract fans across too many genres. Time will tell, though one can hope he need not use co-authors to keep an annual (or bi-annual) release to appease those wanting stimulating literature.
Kudos, Messrs. Meltzer and Goldberg for this interesting piece. While I am a harsh critic at times, I know there is much potential with some time and polish. Let’s hope readers embrace these historical novels and keep coming back.