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Copy-cat killer with a twist

Sequel also serves well as stand-alone thriller

By Matthew J. Meyer

For The Free Lance-Star

WITH AN intricate plot that re-enacts the four assassinations of American presidents and presages the next, “The Fifth Assassin” by Brad Meltzer is a masterful sequel to his novel “The Inner Circle.” In this new story, someone is murdering pastors in Washington, D.C., mimicking the precise details of each of the four presidential assassinations in U.S. history.

Meltzer employs the history and legends of playing cards from the late Middle Ages and extends them into American history. Playing cards have been used even in modern times to carry hidden messages—this time, they are carrying messages to members of a group sworn to keep the powers of the state in check: the Knights of the Golden Circle.

Is it possible that the presidential assassinations were carried out by this order of Knights, and not by the supposedly unrelated figures promulgated through historical accounts? are alleged to have killed every American president to date.

The Knight perpetrating the pastors’ murders now is obsessed with recommitting each historic crime exactly, in preparation for a fifth assassination.

Main character Beecher White and the members of the Culper ring (introduced previously in “The Inner Circle”) race to identify and unravel the pattern that is forming and thwart the impending attack on the current president. But they have a big problem: the president himself.

Readers of “The Inner Circle” will remember that the Culper ring is sworn to protect the office of the presidency, not merely a particular man. They’ve learned that past crimes by this president threaten to diminish the highest office in the land, and he is using the Knight’s murders for his own purposes, to flush out members of the ring who will not swear loyalty to him alone.

Using people from Beecher’s past to keep him off balance, the president is confident he will prevail.

Readers who enjoyed “The Inner Circle” will find that this new novel picks up right where its predecessor left off, with the twist of a Knight and four aces. Though replete with characters and plot lines first introduced in the previous story, this one stands easily on its own for first-time Meltzer readers.

Beecher Benjamin White reprises the archetypical brilliant young man whose continuing rites of passage, grit and self-deprecation add humor and sentiment to this fast-paced thriller. It’s exciting, heartrending and surprising and leaves you knowing you have not seen the end of this series yet.

Matthew J. Meyer is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania County.


By Brad Meltzer

(Grand Central, $27.99, 448 pp.)



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