Book Review: The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer

Fifth AssassinBrad Meltzer’s The Fifth Assassin is the the second book in the Culper Ring Trilogy.  The Culper Ring was introduced in the trilogy’s first book, The Inner Circle, which I reviewed in September 2011.

The Culper Ring started during the time of George Washington and was tasked with protecting the presidency.  Turns out this is not the only secret group in this story.

In The Fifth Assassin Archivist Beecher White, a member of the Culper Ring, tries to stop a serial killer who is copycatting the crimes of the four presidential assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy.  How are the assassins working together over time through this secret group?  And will this story’s President Orson Wallace be the fifth assassination?

The murders have a religious aspect, and the crimes are taking places in churches, chapels, and temples.  Playing cards and their symbols also have a significant role in the murders.

While Beecher is investigating the murders, familiar characters play important roles in the story.  Along with the Beecher, Clementine and Marshall receive more clues about their fathers.  Clementine is still mysterious like her father, Nico, but a clue to his destiny may have been uncovered.  Readers also learn why Beecher feels guilty about a past incident involving Marshall.

Beecher’s mentor Tot and another revealed member of the Culper Ring provide Beecher with more information about the past, present, and future of the group.  With the story playing out as it does, Beecher takes more interest in the future of the Culper Ring.

This story takes countless twists and turns and is full of surprises.  Who does Beecher trust?  What is he willing to risk and why?  Who is helping who?  Who is killing who?  Who is dead or still alive?  And who will be the fifth assassin?

The Inner Circle was similarly written with twists and turns, which was confusing to me.  However, that didn’t seem to bother me with this book, and I just went with the flow of frequent changes in time sequence.  In the reviews I’ve read for The Fifth Assassin, some readers did not like the very short chapters or the change in time sequence.  However, as a working mom, this style made it easier for me to read, and the suspense definitely kept my interest in finding out what would happen next.

Readers may wonder, as I did, how much of the story is real, especially concerning the secret tunnels under Camp David, and what is fiction?  To learn more, check out the Author’s Note at the end of the book.  Meltzer also suggests going to his website.

The Fifth Assassin ends with unanswered questions, people unaccounted for, and threats of future action.  I’m anxious to find out how the story will unfold in the next book in the Culper Ring Trilogy.

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