Masters of mystery unleash 'Inner Circle,' 'Sentry'

Here are reviews of two new mysteries. - "The Inner Circle," Brad Meltzer; Grand Central Publishing, 464 pages. Brad Meltzer's bold, outlandish plots out-Da Vinci Code "The Da Vinci Code." His novels revolve around secrets so important that natio...

Here are reviews of two new mysteries.

- "The Inner Circle," Brad Meltzer; Grand Central Publishing, 464 pages.

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.

Nicolas Cage movies have been based on far less. But Meltzer infuses his audacious plots with believability thanks to his meticulous research and his likable, realistic characters.

Meltzer's 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 the President Orson Wallace during a tour of the National Archives. But the tour quickly becomes -- and you knew this was coming -- 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 Bleecher 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, Bleecher, in hopes that the National Archives would hold a clue to her long-lost father, who, adding to the complications, turns out to be a mental patient who tried to assassinate President Wallace.

In "The Inner Circle," 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 in well-known historical facts with lesser-known details and even humorous mistakes housed in the National Archives.

As an archivist, Bleecher also makes a credible detective as he is accustomed to ferreting out information and keeping secrets for a living. Naive and trusting, Bleecher has built his world around routine and order. "Most archivists don't like surprises," he says. "That's why we work in the past. But as history teaches me every day, the best way to avoid being surprised is to be prepared." Bleecher will find a crash course in surprises and betrayal in "The Inner Circle."

Meltzer spares no historical accuracy in his briskly paced eighth novel. Currently, Meltzer is tackling numerous historical legends in "Brad Meltzer's Decoded," airing Thursdays on TV's History Channel.

'The Sentry'

- "The Sentry," Robert Crais, Putnam, 320 pages.

In many ways, the laconic Joe Pike has been the sentry of Robert Crais' 14-novel series.


A stoic loner, Joe has been the most reliable backup and loyal friend to private detective Elvis Cole, the hero of Crais' series. Elvis has gotten the flashy plots, the love interests and the glib dialogue while Joe has stayed to the side, ready when needed, as would a sentry. Not so much a sidekick as a barrier wall.

It's the enigmatic Joe's turn again in "The Sentry," the third novel in which Elvis plays backup to Joe. As in last year's excellent "The First Rule," Joe easily bears the weight of a briskly paced thriller that looks at unconditional friendship, loyalty and life's choices.

An ex-Marine, former LAPD cop and one-time mercenary, Joe is ever vigilant about human behavior. "A dull red warning vibe" goes off when Joe sees two suspicious men enter a sandwich shop in Venice, Calif., and his timing saves owner Wilson Smith from an assault. But Joe's attention is on Wilson's niece, Dru Rayne, whose "smart eyes" look at Joe "as if she had never seen anything like him." Hardly a monk, Joe is captivated by Dru, who makes him wonder "what it would be like to have another person's sounds in his house."

But how did a simple sandwich shop owner and his niece attract the attention of the Mexican mafia and a killer who has been stalking the pair since they left New Orleans five years before? Despite warnings from a LAPD detective and a FBI agent, Joe wants to help Dru; the only person Joe can turn to is Elvis.

Since Crais' 1987 debut with "The Monkey's Raincoat," this series has never faltered because the author continues to uncover fresh layers in his characters while maintaining a brisk pace and non-stop action. In "The Sentry," Crais reveals even more layers of Joe, whose Zen exterior keeps his rage in check. Long before bro-mances filled the movies, Crais was exploring the staunch friendship of Joe and Elvis, whose respect and belief in each other is unconditional.

That "The Sentry" tests those bonds adds to the suspense and the intricate storytelling. While each man regrets choices that have wrenched them away from a stable home life, Crais never stoops to the maudlin.

As usual, Crais' insider's view of Los Angeles takes the reader to myriad neighborhoods, such as the upscale Venice Canals where gates and bridges are no barriers to Joe.

What To Read Next
Get Local