What do an embalmer working for the U.S. Army, the Army’s artist in residence, and Harry Houdini’s long-deceased friends have in common? That is the heart of The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer. If you are looking for a mystery novel off the beaten path with solid characters and an original plot, this novel is a sure bet. The Escape Artist Kindle
Jim “Zig” Zigarowski is a magician embalmer who can make the most battered body almost lifelike. Nola Brown is the Artist in Residence for the U.S. Army both because she is a great artist whose talents are valuable on the battlefield but also to keep her out of harm’s way, her harm’s way. A plane crashes in Alaska, Nola Brown was on it, and her body is brought to Zig who immediately recognizes the name of a girl who saved his daughter’s life but that name does not belong to the body in front of him.
Zig sets out to find out what happened to Nola Brown because the body left a message indicating Nola Brown is in real danger. Nola is often one step ahead of Zig and does not want to be found. They both stumble upon operation Bluebook. A blue book is what magicians used to leave around different towns for the next magician who needed background stories on the locals to make his or her talking to the dead more believable. Here, Bluebook is the names of Harry Houdini’s long-deceased friends that are used decade after decade as covers for agents in secret operations.
A man who calls himself Houdini really wants to make Nola Brown disappear before she learns too much and this is when Zig gets caught in the crossfire.
Also integrating chapters about Nola’s childhood, The Escape Artist is a complex narrative but Brad Meltzer has a sure hand and this mystery novel never loses its reader or his or her interest.