The President’s Shadow: Brad Meltzer
The wife of the President loves to garden. It’s where she feels peace, serene and can relax doing something that she loves. Weeding, planting and digging beneath the surface of the soil she peers something that will set a chain of events in motion and rock the core of the White House. Within this garden an arm, a severed arm was buried and found in the White House Rose Garden. A message that is quite clear and distinct to the President of the United States and a message that will resurrect the past and bring about two lethal spy organizations that most would like to forget. A secret in one person’s past that will shake up an entire nation.
Beecher White is an archivist a young staffer working in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. His job is to safe keep, secure and take care of important documents vital to our government. In other words our guarded secrets responsible for preserving, organizing or servicing materials within the archives is just one part of his job. The other is quite covert and secret as the author brilliantly ties in the past and enlightens readers to his role in a secret Spy Organization called the Culper Ring created by George Washington and which relates not only to his past but his father’s.
But there is much more as the history behind this 200-year-old secret society is revealed and why Beecher’s life is in danger by another group equally as powerful and started around the same time as the Culper Ring the Knights of the Golden Circle. Washington created the Culper Ring to protect the Presidency. Now, although the society no longer operates, President Wallace needs his or her help, as the arm that was found is just the beginning of what someone has set in motion. Why did someone bury a severed arm? Who would do that and how did they get past the Secret Service? As the arm is removed within the fist something was tightly hidden: A flat penny found in many arcade games. The message within the arm is not meant for the President but for Beecher. Why? As he investigates the incident and gets further involved he mainly wants answers about what happened to his father, his father’s file and what link he had to the past.
What happens when the First Lady uncovers this severed arm? How did it get there? What is the message on the penny that is found within the hand? Beecher is smart but someone is out to get him. Called to the White House by the President he faces the Secret Service, a woman named Francy and then his friend A.J. who he thinks he can trust. Dealing with Wallace is not easy and trusting him is out of the question. Why bring an archivist to the White House? Why are they keeping the severed arm a secret from the public? What is the President’s real reason for wanting Beecher on the case and just who wants to get rid of him? Enter his friend Marshall, who supposedly wants to help him find the files for his father and for his own but can he trust him? What is Marshall’s real reason for getting involved and why would the President want to revive the Culper Ring?
The author then flashes back to the past and we learn about three men: Alby, Beecher’s father, Nico, and Julian. As we learn about their stint in the service the reader becomes aware that something happened to these three men and others that no one wants revealed and they came out with serious problems. But, what happened to Alby is what Beecher does not know. Why are they hunting Nico and whom does he plan to kill next when his goal is to kill the President. But, Nico is crazy and he guides his motions and his ways by listening the ghost of the first lady of a dead president who seems to have the power over him to kill, maim and torture anyone in his way. As the author reveals more about Nico we can visualize his tortures, learn about his torment and then learn more about his daughter Clementine who seems even more dangerous. So, why does she approach Marshall? Why does she warn him that her father, Nico wants to kill Beecher and the Knights of the Golden Circle just might be behind it?
There is a lot of deception and deceit that runs high as Marshall learns the truth behind the Knights of the Golden Circle, is seriously injured by someone thought to be dead and we learn that the circle was a pro-slavery secret society that took place within the mid-19th century U.S. Their real objective was to annex a golden circle of territories in Mexico, which would be divided into twenty-five slave states within Central and South America and Cuba.. As Ezra defines it more to Marshall at gunpoint, that southern sympathizers in the Northern states were accused of belonging tot eh circle and imprisoned. Marshall did not believe a word and things became tenser as he was shot and Clementine seriously injured. He wants him to join it.
Meanwhile Beecher White connects the dots and realizes that the man pretending to be FBI is really a dangerous killer and the Director of the FBI just might be working with this man to get at Beecher. Speaking to Kingston Young’s mother the truth comes out, he needs to escape and with the help of his friend Mac he manages to elude the director and AJ. Within this complicated and complex plot we hear the words and see the actions of Nico Hadrian, determined to finish what he started ten years before to kill a president and but instead he hit the first lady who seems to be his mentor in his present life. Nico is crazy and escaped a padded cell but when he finds the doctor that tortured him and others all he wants is for him to cure his daughter. But, things spiral out of control and the First Lady wins. Imagine learning that Kingston Young is the victim whose two arms appeared first in the Rose Garden and then the second at Camp David. Is he really alive or he is pretending to be someone else named Ezra the member of the Knights of the Golden Circle. The author’s research is extensive as we learn that this is a guild of assassins and believe it or not John Wilkes Booth was a member. With flashbacks to the history, the deceptions, lies and deceits we hear Beecher’s voice in many of the first person narratives as he leads us back into the past. Meet Col. Doggest as Nico takes him apart and wants him to confess to his past deeds. The Culper Ring, the Knights of the Golden Circle and the Plank holders, that recruited Nico are just part of the history that dates back to the American Revolutionary War and George Washington. With the war going south Washington needed to access information about the British troops and their movements. Enlisting Nathan Hale to spy for him hopefully would yield information. But, creating the Culper Ring in 1778 would be the most prominent and important spy ring organized during this war. Their purpose was to supply the president namely Washington with information that would help win the war. Organized and directly under the control of a man named Major Benjamin Tallmadge later promoted to Colonel and under Washington. The name of the ring came from Samuel Culper Junior and was the name Washington came up with coming form Culpeper County in Virginia.
President Orson Wallace wants to ignite the Ring and using Beecher as the catalyst to bring it back helping him find out more about who was sending him the threatening messages. , Found buried in the White House Rose Garden.
Beecher once saved the President’s life but Beecher knows that the president has secrets and might have committed crimes of violence in college. Helping him to find who left a severed arm with a flattened penny that links to the death years before of his father a mechanic in the army. At this point the author flashes back so that we get to know Alby, his father and Nico who turns insane and Julian who fakes his own death. Their time in the army was not what they expected and the end result is why Beecher wants his father’s files and agrees to help the President hoping to get what he wants for himself and for Marshall. But, who can he trust and who is really after him and why?
The author weaves in and out between the past and the present as readers begin to understand Beecher’s concerns but why does Mac warn him about Mina an FBI agent that seems to be on his side but is she setting him up for someone else? Trying to find out what the message on the penny means he learns that the numbers are coordinates for where he grew up. Just how this blends together and why Mina became involved still remains to be revealed as Marshall and Clementine risk it all against a dangerous killer hoping to find her father Nico, save Beecher and learn what the President is really up to and more.
A trip on a plane and the truth about to be uncovered as Beecher, Mina, Nico and Clementine each face their own demons and one man who planned to end it all for them. When the truth comes out and Beecher learns what really happened to his father how could Wallace justify what he has known for so long? Experiments, shots and attributes defined and those that were weak opposed to those that are strong what did the military really do and what was behind their rationale
The final deceit and lie will shock readers as the person who buried the two arms is revealed and Beecher learns the history of Sagamore why people came to live there and how his family, Nico’s and Timothy’s came to settle there. What really happened to his father and why did the military want to find out which men were weak and which were strong? Which would break rules and which would not? Why did Ezra want to rebuild the Knights? What offer is made to Beecher? An ending that is deadly and a President that will stop at nothing to keep his secrets buried. The President’s Shadow: Will Beecher make peace with himself? Will the black veil be lifted? Author Brad Meltzer raises the bar with his first mystery thriller in two and a half years.