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The Escape Artist

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In #1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer's new thriller, death is just another way to disappear. Two hours outside of Washington, DC is the mortuary for the U.S. government's most top-secret and high profile cases. America's most important funeral home. To work there, mortician Jim "Zig" Zigarowski has one rule: never let a case get personal. But when a new body arrives--o In #1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer's new thriller, death is just another way to disappear. Two hours outside of Washington, DC is the mortuary for the U.S. government's most top-secret and high profile cases. America's most important funeral home. To work there, mortician Jim "Zig" Zigarowski has one rule: never let a case get personal. But when a new body arrives--of young female sergeant Nola Brown, who was a childhood friend of Zig's daughter--Zig can't help himself. Looking closely at Nola's body, he realizes immediately: this isn't Nola. Indeed, his daughter's friend is still alive. And on the run. Zig's discovery reveals a sleight of hand being played at the highest levels of power--and traces back through history to a man named Harry Houdini. "Nola, you were right. Keep running."


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In #1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer's new thriller, death is just another way to disappear. Two hours outside of Washington, DC is the mortuary for the U.S. government's most top-secret and high profile cases. America's most important funeral home. To work there, mortician Jim "Zig" Zigarowski has one rule: never let a case get personal. But when a new body arrives--o In #1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer's new thriller, death is just another way to disappear. Two hours outside of Washington, DC is the mortuary for the U.S. government's most top-secret and high profile cases. America's most important funeral home. To work there, mortician Jim "Zig" Zigarowski has one rule: never let a case get personal. But when a new body arrives--of young female sergeant Nola Brown, who was a childhood friend of Zig's daughter--Zig can't help himself. Looking closely at Nola's body, he realizes immediately: this isn't Nola. Indeed, his daughter's friend is still alive. And on the run. Zig's discovery reveals a sleight of hand being played at the highest levels of power--and traces back through history to a man named Harry Houdini. "Nola, you were right. Keep running."

30 review for The Escape Artist

  1. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    I'm between 4 and 4.5 stars here. It's amazing to think that it's been nearly 22 years since Brad Meltzer burst on the scene with his first book, The Tenth Justice . I remember him being quite the wunderkind at the time, and I even went to a book signing at one of those long-defunct bookstore chains, either B. Dalton or Waldenbooks. (Remember those?) Every single one of his novels since then has made the bestseller list, but somewhere along the way I couldn't keep up with him, so it has been a I'm between 4 and 4.5 stars here. It's amazing to think that it's been nearly 22 years since Brad Meltzer burst on the scene with his first book, The Tenth Justice . I remember him being quite the wunderkind at the time, and I even went to a book signing at one of those long-defunct bookstore chains, either B. Dalton or Waldenbooks. (Remember those?) Every single one of his novels since then has made the bestseller list, but somewhere along the way I couldn't keep up with him, so it has been a while since I read one of his books. But his upcoming novel, The Escape Artist , is already getting quite a bit of buzz, so I figured I'd see what the fuss is about. This is a great thriller, full of twists and turns and sensational action, but it also has some great character development and packs an emotional punch. Jim "Zig" Zigarowski is a mortician. Some call him a genius, because he can repair significant damage to a body, making it possible for families to view their loved one and not have any idea just how badly the body really looked. He spends his days in perhaps the most important funeral home in the country, at Dover Air Force Base, where he is responsible for handling the bodies of American soldiers who died in the line of duty, as well as those injured in catastrophes such as 9/11. After a military plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness with some important VIPs on board, Zig knows Dover will be getting the bodies. And while the victims include the head of the Library of Congress, it's one particular victim that catches Zig's attention—Sergeant First Class Nola Brown. Nola knew Zig's daughter when they were younger, and saved her from a potentially life-threatening injury one night, but she disappeared shortly thereafter. Zig is determined to do right by Nola—and then he finds out it isn't her body in the coffin shipped to Dover. So if Nola is alive, what happened to her? And why is everyone ready to believe she is dead? Zig can't stop from digging into the truth, especially when he finds a clue that Nola might have known what was happening that fateful day in Alaska. But the more he investigates, the more he finds himself entangled in a web of conspiracy, crime, violence, and potential scandal, which can be traced back to some of the highest positions in the U.S. government. And the more he digs, the more danger he puts himself in, as well as those around him, because those looking for Nola are always one step ahead. But Zig also finds that Nola brings trouble wherever she goes. She's not interested in being found, nor is she interested in Zig's help. She doesn't care about the connection they shared—she simply wants to follow the trail that led to the plane crash, wants to understand who was responsible, and what they were into. She's utterly unprepared, however, for just who is involved. "The deepest wounds—the ones that pierce you to your core—they heal, but they never disappear." The Escape Artist is a top-notch thriller, but it's also a book about loss, pain, recovery, regret, and the physical and emotional scars we bear. Zig and Nola are fascinating characters, both tremendously stubborn yet vulnerable at the same time, although Nola seems a bit of a sociopath as well. The book shifts between the present and Nola's childhood, to illustrate the events which shaped her attitude and the armor she has built around herself. There are a lot of characters with nicknames (The Curtain, Houdini, Horatio, Master Guns) to keep straight at times, and I'm still not 100 percent sure that I fully understood the operation that Nola and Zig uncovered. I also felt that the villain went on a bit too long in his dramatic "here's why I did what I did speech," a la the villains in superhero movies. But those were minor irritations, because I just felt the story was fascinating, and Meltzer delivered some fantastic action scenes and crazy twists and turns. I imagine you'll see this one a lot over the next few months, so be sure to pick it up when it is released in March! NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available! See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer is a 2018 Grand Central publication. Jim ‘Zig’ Zigarowski is a mortician at the most top-secret mortuary in the United States. When ‘Nola Brown’ arrives at the morgue, Zig is all set to honor the woman who once saved his daughter’s life when they were children. But the scars he knew Nola to have, are not present in this body. That must mean the real Nola Brown is still alive. He soon learns Nola is on the run and because he feels like he owes her one, Zig starts The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer is a 2018 Grand Central publication. Jim ‘Zig’ Zigarowski is a mortician at the most top-secret mortuary in the United States. When ‘Nola Brown’ arrives at the morgue, Zig is all set to honor the woman who once saved his daughter’s life when they were children. But the scars he knew Nola to have, are not present in this body. That must mean the real Nola Brown is still alive. He soon learns Nola is on the run and because he feels like he owes her one, Zig starts investigating, never dreaming he would uncover a conspiracy directly related to Houdini himself… It's been a long time since I read one of Brad Meltzer’s books. Somehow, I lost track of him over the years. I would like to get reacquainted with his work and wanted to get in on the ground floor of this series before the next installment drops. This is a fast paced, adventurous conspiracy-based thriller, with an interesting premise, one that piqued my interest because of the link to Houdini, who has always fascinated me. This story has some highs and lows- Zig’s throwing all caution to the wind for Nola without knowing what she was really into, and Nola’s over the top volatile behavior wasn’t always believable, but, as with all conspiracies, if one has the presence of mind to view them ‘for entertainment purposes only’, they can be fun to dissect and theorize over. Meltzer has carved out a small niche surrounding conspiracies, and they are still as popular as ever, as Zig and Nola are about to make an encore performance soon. I’m willing to see how the pair manages to cross paths again and what adventures they will embark on next. Overall, this was a solid beginning to the series, and was entertaining for the most part. I wouldn’t say this was one of Meltzer’s best efforts, but I’m willing to see where it takes me. 3.5 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Holly B

    3.5 STARS Fast-paced, he knows how to get you hooked beginning! My first by this author and it is the first in his new series. What a beginning, heart-pounding and gripping. A small military plane is plummeting and everyone is scrambling to survive. They are heading to a private army base in the Alaskan wilderness- so private that it doesn't appear on maps and is permanently blurred on Google. A government conspiracy may be the cause and someone is trying to pull off a "great escape" reminiscent of 3.5 STARS Fast-paced, he knows how to get you hooked beginning! My first by this author and it is the first in his new series. What a beginning, heart-pounding and gripping. A small military plane is plummeting and everyone is scrambling to survive. They are heading to a private army base in the Alaskan wilderness- so private that it doesn't appear on maps and is permanently blurred on Google. A government conspiracy may be the cause and someone is trying to pull off a "great escape" reminiscent of Harry Houdini. I've always been fascinated by Houdini and his life of tricks. Cool fact- I learned Houdini may have served as a spy for the US government. Lots of Google info on it. Enjoyed it for the most part, could have done without the chapters that took us to the overdone backstories of the main characters - Nola ( the army artist) and Zig ( the army mortician). They are both flawed characters that get tangled up in a Government cover-up. Also, felt the book was too drawn out and should have been shorter. Recommend if you enjoy conspiracy mysteries, action-packed chapters, mistaken identity, flashbacks, unusual jobs, assassins, character development and action filled chases. I enjoyed it enough to try Book 2 in this new series. It comes out in March 2022

  4. 4 out of 5

    TXGAL1

    Thrilling! It was difficult to put this book down eat or to sleep. I definitely recommend this to anyone who likes mysteries/thrillers. Zig is a grieving father who works as a beloved mortician at a military base in Dover, Delaware. He loves his job and takes his “ mission” seriously while giving each soldier his utmost respect. One situation before him does not add up and the mystery begins. As Zig begins to unravel what has gone wrong and why, memories of the loss of his daughter come to the fo Thrilling! It was difficult to put this book down eat or to sleep. I definitely recommend this to anyone who likes mysteries/thrillers. Zig is a grieving father who works as a beloved mortician at a military base in Dover, Delaware. He loves his job and takes his “ mission” seriously while giving each soldier his utmost respect. One situation before him does not add up and the mystery begins. As Zig begins to unravel what has gone wrong and why, memories of the loss of his daughter come to the forefront. A government operation, Bluebook, seems to be at the center of Zig’s questions. With the help of friends, past and present, Zig strikes out on an exhilarating quest to discover the truth. Whoever said morticians are bland and boring have never met Zig! WARNING: If you have recently lost a loved one, some passages of this book may be sensitive. For me, I found the information I learned fascinating and came to further respect those who do what we cannot for those who have fallen in service to our country.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Brad Meltzer is back with another thriller to appease his adult fans. With a story that dazzles and characters whose lives enrich the storytelling, the wait for this gem seems justifiable. Jim “Zig” Zigarowski works as a civilian mortician at the Dover Air Force Base, having seen much during his long career. After a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, the bodies begin their return for final preparation before being released to the families. While one of the victims is the Librarian of Congres Brad Meltzer is back with another thriller to appease his adult fans. With a story that dazzles and characters whose lives enrich the storytelling, the wait for this gem seems justifiable. Jim “Zig” Zigarowski works as a civilian mortician at the Dover Air Force Base, having seen much during his long career. After a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, the bodies begin their return for final preparation before being released to the families. While one of the victims is the Librarian of Congress, a close friend of POTUS, Zig is most interested in Sergeant Nola Brown. Memories from his past flood back as Zig remembers Zola from an excursion with his now-deceased daughter. Nola was a very quiet girl with a troubled past, though Zig remembers her heroics above all else. Zig’s investigation and preparation of the body seems to raise some red flags and a rushed identification leaves him to wonder if someone is trying to participate in a cover-up back in Alaska. Add to that, a note in the body’s stomach and Zig is sure that Nola is not the one before him, but why?! When the body is intercepted at Dover and the actual Nora emerges, Zig realises that there is a significant mystery surrounding the plane crash and those on the passenger list, including three individuals whose names have ties to the famous Harry Houdini. With Zig and Nora working together, they discover that something called Operation: Bluebook, which could be the impetus for the crash. The original Bluebook refers to a plan hatched by Houdini when he travelled into towns with his own team in the audience, garnering information to be used on stage. Learning that both their lives remain in danger, Zig and Nora work to uncover what’s been going on before they suffer the same fate as the others. Tying the clues together and discovering the Houdini inference, Zig and Nora try to remain one step ahead of this US Government covert sleight of hand. Another well-crafted novel by Meltzer that is recommended to his fans and those who want a little magic with their reading experience. I have long enjoyed Brad Meltzer and his writing style, though I did sigh and shook my head when he turned to writing more for children. However, looking back on it, the anticipation of his thriller novels builds and this one was worth the wait. I am eager to see what else he has in store for Zig in the coming years, should this novel receive the praise it is due. It would appear that the Zig character is the start to a new series, which has some real potential, mixing civilian and military aspects quite effectively and Meltzer’s attention to detail is a significant help. Meltzer does a wonderful job creating a thorough backstory for Zig, especially as it relates to his daughter and the tragedy that befell her. The reader can feel a strong connection, while also being at ease with Zig’s current position as a mortician. Nola Brown’s character receives significant backstory throughout this novel as well, usually in the form of flashback chapters, which flesh out some of the nuances in her personality and explain that sense of independence. Her development in a ‘foster home’ becomes a central thread, as does her development into the woman she began when Zig met her again. There is surely much to be said about Nola and her resilience. Secondary characters are peppered throughout, which provides the reader with a pathway for better understanding how the story will develop. Meltzer adds his own flavour to these folks, injecting historical aspects as well as his own unique characteristics. The story and its delivery are stellar and keep the reader connected throughout, weaving together a few storylines to keep the reader guessing until the very end. Meltzer uses his love of history and intricate detail to fuel this piece, educating the reader as often as possible while not burdening them with too many intricacies that might slow things down. Well-paced chapters and those powerful flashbacks of Nola provide all that the reader needs to feel drawn to the story while hoping for another one in the near future. This is a successful reemergence for Meltzer, whose adult fans are surely pleased to see him back! Kudos, Mr. Meltzer, for another wonderful piece of writing. I can only hope you’ll capture the attention of your fans and remind them why you are top of your genre. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    "What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes." (Harry Houdini) Brad Meltzer opens this story with a military plane going down over the Alaskan wilderness. A female soldier stands poised before the open door hatch ready to jump into the unknown abyss. With screeching wind and shaking limbs, we feel the demanding pressure right alongside her. That fatal jump........ Meltzer then introduces us to Jim "Zig" Zigarowski, a dedicated mortician at Dover Air Force Base, who stands in the ready t "What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes." (Harry Houdini) Brad Meltzer opens this story with a military plane going down over the Alaskan wilderness. A female soldier stands poised before the open door hatch ready to jump into the unknown abyss. With screeching wind and shaking limbs, we feel the demanding pressure right alongside her. That fatal jump........ Meltzer then introduces us to Jim "Zig" Zigarowski, a dedicated mortician at Dover Air Force Base, who stands in the ready to receive the fallen military. It is Zig who painstakingly works to restore each soldier to the best of his ability as grieving families await their loved ones. We will follow the actions of Zig throughout this book as he oversteps the bounds of his profession. Big-time steps, dear readers. Zig receives the broken body of Nola Brown, US Army's Artist-in Residence. But what catches Zig's eye is the fact that he remembers Nola from long ago. Nola was a childhood friend of his daughter. It was Nola who saved Maggie's life and the brave act cost Nola the top of her ear. This corpse has two perfect ears. Yet, the dog tags and paperwork indicate that this is suppose to be THAT Nola Brown. Needless to say, Zig will be on the hunt to try to uncover the powers that be behind this fiasco. Meltzer makes sure to ratchet up the stakes in this government shell game and who, exactly, is pulling the strings? The storyline will flit back and forth from the present to the past while showcasing Nola's abusive childhood. Nola was severely affected by her "tour" of the foster care experience over and over throughout the years. Survival meant learning to adapt to the most heinous of conditions. Those life lessons simply bled into adulthood. Nola certainly learned to pack it down emotionally and to draw on it when needed. Much needed. This was my first experience reading a Brad Meltzer novel. The man knows how to punch out a story. Will be back for more, Mr. Meltzer. Most certainly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    After a credible start, this story degenerates to bad, then worse. 0 of 10 stars

  8. 5 out of 5

    Saadia B.

    2.75 Stars The mortuary at Dover was classified for US's high officials where all soldiers and officials were brought. Nola's body was also brought there but Zig, the mortician, confirmed with the help of the fingerprint scanner that the body wasn't her. The plane crash was kept hidden for two days from the news, Nola jumped off the plane in order to save her life from the crashing plane. Nola and Roddy were twins adopted by the Walters, but they could only keep one hence they gave Nola away to R 2.75 Stars The mortuary at Dover was classified for US's high officials where all soldiers and officials were brought. Nola's body was also brought there but Zig, the mortician, confirmed with the help of the fingerprint scanner that the body wasn't her. The plane crash was kept hidden for two days from the news, Nola jumped off the plane in order to save her life from the crashing plane. Nola and Roddy were twins adopted by the Walters, but they could only keep one hence they gave Nola away to Royall who lived alone in Oklahoma and was very particular about his food. President's friend also died in the crash. Zig was intrigued because somehow Nola changed her burial place after her death, but she was alive. Nola was the Artist in Residence, one of the Army's most prestigious honour. When Zig went to the morgue, he met Nola there, she offered him to go her office in Washington and get her something from there, to which Zig agreed. Zig was suspicious of Nola so he disconnected her call while talking to Barton, her co-worker. Houdini was the mastermind behind the plane crash whom Nola killed. Houdini was the money man who helped government with problems during war time, especially if the army didn't want any news about it. Nola painted veterans who committed suicide. Zig's wife was having an affair which frightened his daughter while her parents were fighting so she sung under the car and fell asleep there. Zig not knowing she was there, cramped the car on her, which resulted in her death. Nola was Zig's daughter's friend and even saved her life once, hence he wanted to help Nola out. Bluebook was the name of the secret observers planted by the army to keep check and get information, the entire operation was runned out of the library of Congress, by the President's friend. Houdini was skimming money from the cash that he was carrying around, Royall got to know about it and started blackmailing him for a share, they joined each other as Horatio and Houdini. Massive amount of money was to arrive in Alaska for the Bluebook operations. Hence they blew off the plane in order to take away all the money. Since Nola saw Royall there, he decided to kill her, so that she won't blow his plan up. Teresa was Royall's daughter, Zig killed her while rescuing Nola. Royall planned to burn them with infallible but Nola killed him. Nola was fired from her office and decided to travel and draw paintings. Zig also took a break and went to New Orleans, after Nola. Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn

  9. 5 out of 5

    Monnie

    Murder, deeply hidden political secrets, interesting but emotionally scarred characters and a unique setting - who could ask for more? Me, actually; I'm thinking (make that hoping) this marks the start of a great new series. The intriguing setting is Dover Air Force Base, where exceptionally talented mortician and beekeeper Jim "Zig" Zigarowski lovingly works on the bodies of fallen soldiers and not a few of the U.S. government's high-profile deaths (bringing to mind a male take on Patricia Corn Murder, deeply hidden political secrets, interesting but emotionally scarred characters and a unique setting - who could ask for more? Me, actually; I'm thinking (make that hoping) this marks the start of a great new series. The intriguing setting is Dover Air Force Base, where exceptionally talented mortician and beekeeper Jim "Zig" Zigarowski lovingly works on the bodies of fallen soldiers and not a few of the U.S. government's high-profile deaths (bringing to mind a male take on Patricia Cornwell's medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta - a long-time favorite series of mine, BTW). As the story begins, a plane has crashed in a remote part of Alaska, killing everyone on board; among the bodies identified by the government and Zig's superiors is Sgt. Nola Brown. Turns out Zig knows her from 10-or-so years ago, when she saved the life of Zig's daughter. But as he begins to restore her body to viewing order, he realizes that the woman he's working on definitely is not Nola. But if not Nola, who? Why are the powers-that-be intent on making the rest of the world believe it's her? And perhaps more important, where is the real Nola and what is she up to? Because of his past connection, Zig is determined to find her and get to the truth despite warnings from the people he considers to be his friends. What he first learns is that Nola held an enviable position - that of artist-in-residence for the U.S. Army. As a highly trained soldier, she goes into battle zones to create realistic and minds-eye paintings of scenes that showcase details even photographs may not reveal. Most likely, Zig concludes, it was Nola's observations in the Alaska wilderness that made her a target. Following that lead, however, puts Zig himself (surprise!) in places he probably shouldn't be, thus in the crosshairs of some very dangerous people - and conjures up top-secret historical connections between the government and the late Harry Houdini, considered by many to be the world's greatest (insert book title here). It also puts him at odds with Nola herself, who is less than thrilled at being reminded of anything from her troubled past, which readers learn about via flashback chapters. The ending brings a few twists and offers a ray of hope that indeed, this will be a series; if so, I'll be among the first in line when the next installment is available. Meantime, many thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this one in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    After a credible start, this story degenerates to bad, then worse. 0 of 10 stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    BrocheAroe

    Clever and accurate title. Well-written thriller, plot-wise. But it's entirely a book written by a man that is supposed to be about a woman but is actually about a man instead. The marketing is well-done but inaccurate. This book is about Zig, and tangentially about Nola Brown. It would be nice to actually read a book about Nola who sounds like she would be a fascinating character if she was ever described in a manner that was not in relation to another male. Perhaps we could see her thought pro Clever and accurate title. Well-written thriller, plot-wise. But it's entirely a book written by a man that is supposed to be about a woman but is actually about a man instead. The marketing is well-done but inaccurate. This book is about Zig, and tangentially about Nola Brown. It would be nice to actually read a book about Nola who sounds like she would be a fascinating character if she was ever described in a manner that was not in relation to another male. Perhaps we could see her thought process and development as a fully-realized human being and character, instead of how it relates solely to Zig's understanding or in relation to her adoptive father's moods. Also, in a book that addresses Nola's complexion almost purely through the racial slurs aimed at her by her adoptive father, I'm also not okay with how the assassin is described as Native American (though the author did deign to specify a tribe in there, once - again, accompanied by stereotypical circumstances). If you're truly going to give voice to or raise up an indigenous person as a character, refer to them as their tribe, not the catch-all. Why make mention of a race at all, if that's the case? What depth did it add to the character? I despise writing peppered with characters of color simply to seem inclusive while actually singling that out as an exotic trait and perpetuating clichéd stereotypes. The plot holds up, though is predictable by the end. The rest does not.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Srque

    Perhaps the worst written best seller I have read. I would have stopped after the first triple use of the same verb on a page or body sound, but I was stuck. I was driven to try to understand how such drivel could not only be published by a major house let alone become a best seller. This book makes anything by James Patterson look good. The writing is poor, the plot is contrived and any marketing comaprisons to Lisbeth Salander are unearned. This is an excellent book to read if you, too, want t Perhaps the worst written best seller I have read. I would have stopped after the first triple use of the same verb on a page or body sound, but I was stuck. I was driven to try to understand how such drivel could not only be published by a major house let alone become a best seller. This book makes anything by James Patterson look good. The writing is poor, the plot is contrived and any marketing comaprisons to Lisbeth Salander are unearned. This is an excellent book to read if you, too, want to think you can write a better best seller.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    I have read books by Brad Meltzer previously and know that he will once again deliver a thrilling and mysterious story. And I was right. I was also delighted that the story included a Harry Houdini angle! Who is Nora Brown? Who is this woman that is killed when an airplane crashed? I have to admit that I did not read the blurb before I read the book which meant that I did not know much about the plot. Which when I now know what the blurb reveals makes me very glad. I liked being surprised, I like I have read books by Brad Meltzer previously and know that he will once again deliver a thrilling and mysterious story. And I was right. I was also delighted that the story included a Harry Houdini angle! Who is Nora Brown? Who is this woman that is killed when an airplane crashed? I have to admit that I did not read the blurb before I read the book which meant that I did not know much about the plot. Which when I now know what the blurb reveals makes me very glad. I liked being surprised, I like starting a book knowing next to nothing about a book. That's also what I try to do when I write reviews, trying to explain how good a book is without giving away too much. That's why thrillers are the hardest reviews to write. Because you know spoilers... However, I will say this about this book, Jim "Zig" Zigarowski is the most unlikely, but likable hero I have read about in a while. Zig is a mortician, works at Dover Air Force Base and he realizes that the body of Nora Brown is someone he knows. A child that knew his daughter Maggie when she was little and still alive. And, he feels a responsibility for Nora, who once saves Maggie's life, one this the last stop of her journey. But, whiles preparing her does he make a startling discovery, that's not Nora... The Escape Artist is a thrilling and well-written mystery novel about a young woman that is supposed to be dead, but turns out to be very much alive. Alive and kicking and looking for answers. I found the book to be engrossing to read and I liked the team of Zig and Nora, a very unlikely team. However, that's probably why I liked them both so much. It's a great book that I recommend warmly. I want to thank Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Slavin

    Wow! This book was very good. Again since I am writing thrillers, I noticed better than any book I have read so far is that each chapter really stops on a cliff hanger. Meltzer has done a great job of not letting you put his book down because you want to know what happens as he leaves you in suspense. It is a great story with three unique leading characters. You will dive deeply into SSG Nola Brown's character. Her cruel father guardian and the man that feels he owes her. But beyond the story you' Wow! This book was very good. Again since I am writing thrillers, I noticed better than any book I have read so far is that each chapter really stops on a cliff hanger. Meltzer has done a great job of not letting you put his book down because you want to know what happens as he leaves you in suspense. It is a great story with three unique leading characters. You will dive deeply into SSG Nola Brown's character. Her cruel father guardian and the man that feels he owes her. But beyond the story you'll learn about Dover AFB and how our fallen soldiers are treated if they die in the service of their country. You'll also learn a little history, and a little about magic. Excellent read. I really enjoyed this book. Mike

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Small

    THE ESCAPE ARTIST is touted as a thriller. I did not find it very suspenseful. The plot is unique and it starts off as a taut, complex thriller, but becomes lengthy and too drawn out as the storyline becomes more and more incredulous, if not ludicrous. The “complex thriller” becomes convoluted with too many secondary characters. The author does his homework and provides interesting facts....but learning about the nature of bees? Really? How is that germane to the plot AT ALL? Going on and on abo THE ESCAPE ARTIST is touted as a thriller. I did not find it very suspenseful. The plot is unique and it starts off as a taut, complex thriller, but becomes lengthy and too drawn out as the storyline becomes more and more incredulous, if not ludicrous. The “complex thriller” becomes convoluted with too many secondary characters. The author does his homework and provides interesting facts....but learning about the nature of bees? Really? How is that germane to the plot AT ALL? Going on and on about the candy selection in the dispensers? Whereas providing descriptive details is good author’s craft, doing so for non essentials slows the pace and makes the book unnecessarily long.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    It is a catchy start and very captivating from the beginning. I was confused shortly after a while but figured it out along the way. Good mystery and action! The three main characters, Zig, Nola, and Royall are all well written and movingly linked.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Steck

    See this review and more at www.TheRealBookSpy.com Who is Nola Brown? That’s the question readers will ask themselves as Brad Meltzer’s latest high-octane thriller, The Escape Artist, kicks off. Officially, Nola Brown is dead. Her body was found among others after a devastating plane crash. Her commanding officer confirms Nola’s death, as does the United States government. So, too, does Jim Zigarowski’s boss, who signed off, triple-checking that the body arriving at Dover Air Force Base was, in See this review and more at www.TheRealBookSpy.com Who is Nola Brown? That’s the question readers will ask themselves as Brad Meltzer’s latest high-octane thriller, The Escape Artist, kicks off. Officially, Nola Brown is dead. Her body was found among others after a devastating plane crash. Her commanding officer confirms Nola’s death, as does the United States government. So, too, does Jim Zigarowski’s boss, who signed off, triple-checking that the body arriving at Dover Air Force Base was, in fact, that of Nola Brown. There’s just one problem. Nola Brown isn’t dead. . . Zigarowski, who goes by “Zig,” the Port Mortuary Branch Chief at Dover, spends each day with fallen troops. His job goes far beyond conducting autopsies. The bodies that arrive at Dover often need delicate care in order to be pieced back together. When parents, spouses, and children come to claim the remains of their beloved soldiers, they often want to see the body. And it’s Zig’s job to make sure the fallen look the way people remember them so that their families can have the proper closure they need. Closure — it’s an important part of the grieving process, something Zig knows all too well. So when bodies come in missing limbs, Zig works his magic, sculpting new ones out of clay. When their faces are ripped apart by shrapnel or burned beyond recognition, Zig applies makeup to make them look like their old selves. It’s a job he does with love, and something he takes very seriously. When it comes to restoring broken, ripped-apart flesh, there’s nobody better than Jim Zigarowski. In fact, it seems as though Zig is able to restore everyone. . . but himself. Deep down, Zig is a broken man, having never recovered from the day his daughter, Maggie, his only child, tragically passed away. What begins as an ordinary day quickly turns into anything but. Zig purposely signed up to work on Nola’s body. When her name first appeared on the list of victims from the plane crash, he recognized it immediately. Checking to make sure it was the same Nola he knew from nearly fifteen years ago was simple. Zig has plenty of security access, and for those rare times his clearance level isn’t high enough, well, he’s got friends in high places with enough juice to get the info he needs. Including this time, when he confirmed that this Nola Brown is the same Nola Brown from his hometown. . . the same Nola who once bravely, selflessly, did something for Maggie that Zig would never forget. But as he gets to work repairing the body, Zig quickly realizes it’s not Nola. It can’t be. He’s able to confirm as such by running the deceased’s fingerprints. But why, he wonders, would someone try to pawn this body off as Nola Brown? Surely, it couldn’t be an accident. The triple-check system is in place for this very reason. Someone–several people, actually–had to sign off on the soldier’s identification. Determined to get answers, Zig starts poking around. Going back to the body, he finds a chilling secret message intended for Nola, confirming that she is, indeed, out there. . . and that she’s in serious danger. Putting his life on the line, Zig decides to risk everything in order to try and find Nola so he can deliver the hidden message before it’s too late. But his search raises more questions than answers, especially when he finds out that the plane Nola supposedly died on took off from a secret military base in Alaska. As he presses on, Zig eventually discovers a centuries-old conspiracy that can be traced all the way back to the world’s most famous escape artist of all time: Harry Houdini. Meltzer has a gift for turning average Joes into unlikely heroes. He’s done it throughout his career, most notably with his Beecher White series (which by the way, seems to be set in the same universe as Zig and Nola–Meltzer’s fans will recognize a cameo from a certain president) and 2016’s The House of Secrets. There’s also nobody better when it comes to mixing in historical facts with nail-biting fiction. Zig, like so many of us, is just an average guy who cares about his job and walks around with a big hole in his heart. He’s vulnerable, honest, and cares about doing the right thing, almost to a fault. He feels like he owes Nola, and that drives him onward. He’s wonderfully developed, and Meltzer portrays him in a way that makes Zig relatable, real, and compelling. But even so, Nola is the star here, and trust me, the less you know about her heading into this one the better. In fact, all you really need to know is this: Nola Brown is Meltzer’s strongest female character yet, and when it’s all said and done, she’ll stand among the year’s best new characters. Period. While he’s done it all–from penning New York Times bestsellers to hosting multiple hit television shows–Meltzer hasn’t ever written anything quite like his latest book. The Escape Artist is thrilling, yet full of soul. It’ll entertain you, and teach you. It’ll have you cheering, but it’ll also grip you emotionally. When you’re on the brink of tears, Meltzer makes you laugh. Toss in nonstop suspense, blind-siding twists and turns, a fascinating conspiracy, plenty of action. . . and you’ve got a story unlike anything else currently sitting on bookstore shelves, and a story that only Brad Meltzer could tell. So, who is Nola Brown? Find out on March 6th when Brad Meltzer’s must-read new novel, The Escape Artist, hits bookstores everywhere. Book Details Author: Brad Meltzer Series: Nola Brown #1 Pages: 434 (Hardcover) ISBN: 1455559520 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Release Date: March 6, 2018 Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10 Order Now: http://amzn.to/2qKp84B Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patrice Hoffman

    Brad Meltzer's The Escape Artist has been on my to-read list for quite some time. I've enjoyed reading his Culper Ring series and expected this title to be a thrilling, high energy read with a nugget of American history that makes the reader wonder what other conspiracies our government could be hiding. The Escape Artist did not disappoint. The Escape Artist introduces us to a civilian mortician, Jim Zigarowski BKA Zig. Zig gets word that a body has been shipped to the morgue bearing the same nam Brad Meltzer's The Escape Artist has been on my to-read list for quite some time. I've enjoyed reading his Culper Ring series and expected this title to be a thrilling, high energy read with a nugget of American history that makes the reader wonder what other conspiracies our government could be hiding. The Escape Artist did not disappoint. The Escape Artist introduces us to a civilian mortician, Jim Zigarowski BKA Zig. Zig gets word that a body has been shipped to the morgue bearing the same name of a young girl from his past. A young girl that saved his daughter's life at a Girls' Scout meeting. Feeling it's his duty to make her look perfect in death after her plunge from a crashing plane, he suddenly realizes the girl he once knew is not the corpse. The note he find in the body of the fallen checks his concern into high-gear. Determined to find her, Zig embarks on a dangerous mission that no mortician is equipped to handle. Enter Nola Brown. Once upon a time she was the young girl who saved Zig's daughter. Today she stands as a hard-ass, killing machine that's determined to find the answers to why the plane went down that was carrying her friend, as well as who's behind the conspiracy. Eventually she and Zig join forces to see what's what. So... The Escape Artist was what I hoped it would be. Fast paced, unrelenting, engaging, and interesting... at least for a while hence my 3 star rating. Initially finding out the mystery of Nola and what is really going on is gripping. The pages couldn't turn fast enough for me. I had to know who Nola was and who she was running from. What is the mystery. And what the hell does Harry Houdini have to do with it? As the novel unfolds and more revelations of their pasts are revealed, I still felt a bit unsatisfied. Both Zig and Nola have such rich stories that deserved to be expounded on a bit more. Especially Nola's. The mystery of the plane crash couldn't hold a candle to her home life. Yes Meltzer shifts between the girl Nola once was and the woman she's become, I couldn't help being more interested in the former. Even with adolescent Nola being as paper-thin as she was, I couldn't help but want a little more development. Overall, The Escape Artist fits the bill for anyone who's looking for a fast read. Despite the 3-star rating Brad Metlzer doesn't disappoint. All the boxes are checked for a high-octane thriller. I'm definitely looking forward to his next read. Copy provided by Grand Central Publishing via Netgalley

  19. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    4.5 actually. Wonderful and a great read. I had forgotten how great it was to read a Brad Meltzer book. And how novel to have a mortician (acting as a PI) and it really works. I must see if there are anymore books with Jim ("Zig") as the lead character. One of the best thrillers I have read. And David Baldacci agrees with me: really I agree with him. A high stakes, high tension thriller. 4.5 actually. Wonderful and a great read. I had forgotten how great it was to read a Brad Meltzer book. And how novel to have a mortician (acting as a PI) and it really works. I must see if there are anymore books with Jim ("Zig") as the lead character. One of the best thrillers I have read. And David Baldacci agrees with me: really I agree with him. A high stakes, high tension thriller.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    A mortician and an artist investigate a plane crash and stumble into dark government secrets. An action-packed, fast-paced read with fully developed, highly flawed characters, an utterly imaginative plot, and plenty of twists. Highly recommended to readers of thrillers.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    4.5 Stars for The Escape Artist: Zig and Nola (audiobook) by Brad Meltzer read by Scott Brick. This was a great adventure with some unique and wonderful characters. I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Started strong but wallowed too much in unnecessary torture and violence.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Danielle The Book Huntress

    This was a group read for the Goodreads Action Adventure Aficionados group, and my library happened to have the audiobook, which was excellent. I honestly was somewhat underwhelmed. I liked the concept and I think Nola was an interesting character. Nola has a Lizbeth Salander feel, or if you've read any of the Informationist books by Taylor Stevens, she also reminds me of Vanessa Michael Monre. Zig was fine. I mean I liked him. He just didn't have enough charisma as a lead character for this boo This was a group read for the Goodreads Action Adventure Aficionados group, and my library happened to have the audiobook, which was excellent. I honestly was somewhat underwhelmed. I liked the concept and I think Nola was an interesting character. Nola has a Lizbeth Salander feel, or if you've read any of the Informationist books by Taylor Stevens, she also reminds me of Vanessa Michael Monre. Zig was fine. I mean I liked him. He just didn't have enough charisma as a lead character for this book. I feel like this needed to be Nola's book. He was a very humane and sincere guy and I liked him. My heart broke for how he lost his daughter. I am glad he was able to get a little closure by the end of the book. I hope that Zig and Nola stay in each others' lives. I did like that Zig is a mortician. You just don't see lead characters who are morticians much. Or maybe it's just me. I have never read Brad Meltzer, but I think I was expecting his writing to have more action. To me, the action scenes didn't have enough tension and punch to them. I didn't feel like I was there and it didn't feel cinematic to me. The action scenes were functional to me. The villains were a bit on the cardboard side except for Nola's stepfather. He was rancid. I almost expected him to be a molester, but he was just physically and mentally abusive and really twisted. I admit that I was also rereading Orphan X around this time, and that book makes others pale in comparison. Maybe that's why I didn't feel too blown away by this book. I think the storyline about Harry Houdini was pretty cool. It was a nice twist. I liked the background about Houdini and his determination to debunk the Spiritualist movement, which I had learned about before I read this from watching a history show. Although the reveal felt forced, and I'm not sure I am convinced that the person who turns out to be the mastermind has the smarts and the capability to pull it off. That person is a bit too lazy and basic to be the criminal mastermind behind everything. I didn't buy it, to be honest. I kind of think that the narrators weren't into as much either. I mean Scott Brick and January LaVoy are both excellent narrators for other audiobook series that I have read and really got sucked into. In this book, they seemed more functional. I do think that January LaVoy did nail Nola's cadence pretty well. I wasn't excited about this book. I'm not sure I would be that invested in reading a whole series about Zig unless Nola shows up in the books. I would definitely read a series about Nola.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    4.5*'s One of the best books in the mystery books I've read in awhile. Not because the mystery was a mystery but because the author incorporated so many concurrent stories dealing with different forms of grief, child abandonment, magic and Hoodini in historical fiction terms, PTSD....really well done especially in regards to grief accompanying child loss and the PTSD which results the same way it does for soldiers, reliving the horrors again and again. 4.5*'s One of the best books in the mystery books I've read in awhile. Not because the mystery was a mystery but because the author incorporated so many concurrent stories dealing with different forms of grief, child abandonment, magic and Hoodini in historical fiction terms, PTSD....really well done especially in regards to grief accompanying child loss and the PTSD which results the same way it does for soldiers, reliving the horrors again and again.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    *3.5 stars rounded up. I was surprised to realize I've never read any books by Brad Meltzer before and found I quite enjoyed this taste. The main character here is Jim "Zig" Zigarowski, a divorced mortician at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. A small plane carrying military personnel and government officials has crashed in Alaska killing all seven aboard and the victims are brought to Dover for their burial preparations. Zig realizes he knows one of the dead, Sgt. 1st Class Nola Brown, and makes *3.5 stars rounded up. I was surprised to realize I've never read any books by Brad Meltzer before and found I quite enjoyed this taste. The main character here is Jim "Zig" Zigarowski, a divorced mortician at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. A small plane carrying military personnel and government officials has crashed in Alaska killing all seven aboard and the victims are brought to Dover for their burial preparations. Zig realizes he knows one of the dead, Sgt. 1st Class Nola Brown, and makes sure he will be the one to handle her care. He is an expert at honoring the dead and making them presentable for their loved ones. How could Zig ever forget Nola? She went to school with his daughter Maggie and had saved her from an accident. In doing so, Nola received a disfiguring wound to her ear. Zig still feels he owes the young woman for that and wants to do right by her now in death but he soon notes this corpse does not have such a wound. Who is this young woman? In her stomach contents, he finds a note that reads: "Nola, you were right. Keep running." Can Zig find Nola to pass on the warning, perhaps help her before it is too late? And so begins a taut thriller with many a gasp from surprising twists. Zig soon learns that there is something going on behind the scenes with many tie-ins to the great magician Houdini. The head of the Library of Congress was onboard that plane and the library has all of Houdini's memorabilia. Is there some kind of covert operation going on? I enjoyed this action-packed thriller quite a bit, although I found some aspects of the story repetitious and overly maudlin...but the reasons for that are revealed towards the end of the story. Nola's backstory is told in flashbacks; she had a disturbing childhood which shaped the capable but violent woman she is in the present. Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for providing me with an arc of this new thriller, a great introduction to Brad's writing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    Brad Meltzer delivers again! Brad introduces a new set of characters that draws you in from the very beginning. This new adventure takes the reader all over the US from Alaska to DC. In pure Meltzer fashion, he weaves an intricate web of twists and turns, with the heart pounding action that his readers have come to enjoy. The reader is kept guessing from page to page. Overall, another great time spend enthralled in another Meltzer book that was definitely worth it!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    “The big move covers the small one" Jim “Zig” Zigarowski is a gifted mortician at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Military deaths and some of the larger civilian death tolls go through the mortuary there. Zig is a master at putting broken bodies back together, preparing them for viewing by their families and friends. So when a plane crashes in Alaska with a personal friend of the President of the United States aboard, the remains go to Dover. But when Zig finds that a woman he knew years ago as a “The big move covers the small one" Jim “Zig” Zigarowski is a gifted mortician at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Military deaths and some of the larger civilian death tolls go through the mortuary there. Zig is a master at putting broken bodies back together, preparing them for viewing by their families and friends. So when a plane crashes in Alaska with a personal friend of the President of the United States aboard, the remains go to Dover. But when Zig finds that a woman he knew years ago as a teenager was also on the flight, he breaks protocol to do the restoration work on her. As he starts his work on her, questions start arising and he finds himself involved in a massive cover-up. I loved this book. The characters were great and I enjoyed learning about Dover AFB and the valuable services they provide to our nation. I also learned about the Artist-in-Residence and was enthralled reading about this military position, which I'd never heard of before. This was a fast moving thriller and it contained more than one surprise to me. I received this book from Grand Central Publishing through Net Galley in the hopes that I would read it and leave an unbiased review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Grutsch

    I can’t even finish it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Thomas

    Jim “Zig” Zigarowski is a mortician. But not just any mortician. He works at Dover Air Force Base applying his superior skills to re-building the remains of downed US Service men after they’ve been killed and maimed in combat. He’s the best there is and he always gets the toughest cases. But he also does it as a means of atonement…for what happened to his own daughter years ago. But when an airplane crash in Alaska involves a young female Sergeant named Nola Brown, who also happens to be the one Jim “Zig” Zigarowski is a mortician. But not just any mortician. He works at Dover Air Force Base applying his superior skills to re-building the remains of downed US Service men after they’ve been killed and maimed in combat. He’s the best there is and he always gets the toughest cases. But he also does it as a means of atonement…for what happened to his own daughter years ago. But when an airplane crash in Alaska involves a young female Sergeant named Nola Brown, who also happens to be the one who saved his daughter’s life back in their high school years, Zig knows he must take that case to honor her remains in the best way possible. Just one problem, the corpse is not the same girl. Where is Nola and why has another girl’s mangled body been substituted? What follows is a fun roller coaster of a plot as we follow Zig in his quest for answers. We also get to follow Nora through numerous flashbacks to her youth and see just what horrible experiences she had growing up. While I liked the character of Zig and his soulful approach to life as well as trying to figure out just what had happened to his daughter, the real stand-out character is Nora. She’s had a hard life but her talent for drawing and painting has allowed her a way ahead and her eventual job with the Army as “Artist in Residence” was interesting. Comparisons to Lisbeth Salander in the Dragon Tattoo books are not without merit. Her fortitude and ability to overcome extreme situations is rewarding to witness. There are also some pretty cool historical references to Houdini and spy networks from that era which still intertwine with the events in this book. One must suspend one's disbelief at a couple of points along the way for things to work out correctly but those are minor and easily overlooked. Overall, this was a fun, page-turning read with a satisfying conclusion. It was nice to read a modern-day thriller with a different approach.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    “You make something appear. You make something disappear. You make two things change place. Or, the one Zig liked most: You change one thing into something else.” Two lives digging for truths, two lives twain in battlement with death, one literary starting her teen life out digging a grave, to becoming one wanting to be dead, the other with a job, maybe in part due to kin lost to terrible circumstances, that maybe serves as a second chance for the fallen by fixing them up to a presentable state. T “You make something appear. You make something disappear. You make two things change place. Or, the one Zig liked most: You change one thing into something else.” Two lives digging for truths, two lives twain in battlement with death, one literary starting her teen life out digging a grave, to becoming one wanting to be dead, the other with a job, maybe in part due to kin lost to terrible circumstances, that maybe serves as a second chance for the fallen by fixing them up to a presentable state. These two characters man and woman pulling the reader on with mystery and intrigue. Plane down, why ? Who did it ? Some of the driving questions, but ultimately these two memorable characters either up against loss, or racism, and terrible circumstances and how death pulls their hearts strings and the readers once immersed in the tale. One part of the tale rides along building momentum in the present and another part in various chapters with some great characterisation in the building of the woman Nola Brown who had plenty pains and obstacles but became tougher and tougher. Pre-warning to the reader of being succumbed by thrill of clear and present danger and conspiratorial manoeuvrings that will in rapid fire succession insidiously try to alter the characters lives. Review with excerpts @ https://more2read.com/review/the-escape-artist-by-brad-meltzer/

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