What I’m Reading: The Book of Lies

Brad Meltzer is one of those authors who happily straddles the world of novels and comic books, and although I first became a fan of his with his groundbreaking Identity Crisis series, I quickly followed him into bookstores. I just finished his newest work, The Book of Lies, and I’ve gotta tell ya, as thrillers go, it’s everything I’m looking for.

The Bible tells us that Cain slew Abel, and thus became the first murderer. However, the Bible does not tell us howAbel died. Over the centuries, the first murder weapon was lost. Fast-forward to 1931, when a Russian immigrant named Mitchell Siegel is shot dead. The murder is never solved. A few years later his son, Jerry, creates a comic strip hero whose most outstanding feature, in those early years, is the fact that he’s bulletproof. He calls his creation Superman.

These are the two facts upon which Meltzer builds this fictional yarn. In the present day we see Cal Harper, a former fed turned social worker who happens, one night, to stumble upon his long-lost father. Cal’s dad is in trouble, though — there’s a hold order on an important shipment he was meant to deliver. When Cal pulls a few strings to help his dad out, he winds up being chased by a zealot searching for a long-lost artifact that links together the first murder with the murder that helped shape the first superhero… a mysterious creation known as The Book of Lies. The father and son have to engage in a chase halfway across the country to the birthplace of Superman, with both enemies and people who should be allies chasing them in a deadly little race for the truth.

As he often does, Meltzer uses a lot of historical fact to weave the fabric of his story — not just Biblical fact, or the facts surrounding the death of Jerry Siegel’s father, but also truths from World War II and the present-day state of the old Siegel home. (Which, incidentally, Meltzer is spearheading an effort to help restore at the website OrdinaryPeopleChangetheWorld.com — check it out, see how you can help.) These facts all help to put together a very strong foundation for the fiction Meltzer lays on top, supporting the action scenes and the mystery, and ultimately leading to a revelation about the story’s Maguffin that makes it really entertaning for me. In the end, the story turns out to be about one of my favorite subjects, which I won’t spoil here except to say that the final reveal turned this from a book I just enjoyed to a book I loved.

Although I’m still catching up on reading Meltzer’s pre-“Crisis” work, this is easily my favorite novel of his I’ve read to date. I’ll definitely be waiting for him the next time he lands in a bookstore — or a comic shop. Whichever comes first.
Stumble it!

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