Sunday, September 7, 2008

Superman holds the truth in Brad Meltzer's "The Book of Lies"

Book of Lies
By Brad Meltzer

Grand Central, $25.99

This review appeared in the San Antonio Express News on Sunday, September 7, 2008

According to the fourth chapter of Genesis, Cain and Abel were the first children born of Adam and Eve. Cain killed his brother Abel and in doing so unleashed murder upon the world. God forgave Cain and marked him with a sign that protected him from enduring the same fate as his brother Abel, and Cain was left to wander the earth for all of time. The Bible does not reveal the weapon used by Cain to kill Abel, and it has been speculated that the armament could have been a rock or a jaw bone or horn of an animal.

In 1932, Mitchell Siegel was murdered with a hand gun. Consumed with grief, his son Jerry created an immortal, bullet-proof superhero, "Superman." To this day, the murder of Mitchell Siegel has never been solved.

So how could the murders of Abel and Mitchell Siegel possibly be related? This is the mystery at the core of Brad Meltzer's new thriller, The Book of Lies.

Nineteen years ago, Lloyd Harper accidently killed his wife as his 9-year-old son Cal watched, losing both his mother and his innocence. Harper served eight years in prison and Cal never laid eyes upon him again — until one extraordinary night when Cal, a rescuer of the homeless, and his co-worker Roosevelt, a defrocked Methodist pastor, discover Lloyd Harper bleeding from a gunshot wound in a public park.

In their excitement of stumbling upon Cal's father and transporting him to a hospital, the two good Samaritans fail to notice the evil zealot Ellis and his Caanan dog Benoni closely observing them from the security of his phony police car.

While his long-lost father is receiving treatment in the emergency room, Cal rifles through his bloody, discarded clothing and finds a commercial driver's license and a bill of lading for an unspecified shipment to be picked up at the Port of Miami. Cal, an ex-agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, calls a former buddy from ICE and they plot to intercept the shipment. Little do they realize that this particular cargo is destined to change the course of history.

Meltzer deftly weaves a story of suspense and intrigue as he connects the dots between the biblical murder of Abel by Cain and the unsolved homicide of Mitchell Siegel, father of the creator of "Superman." The relationship between these two seemingly unrelated events is presumed to be revealed in the shipment that Lloyd Harper is to pick up at the Miami Port, a shipment that holds the world's greatest secret, The Book of Lies.

The only real truth would come from ripping open Lloyd's shipment. It was no different a century ago with Mitchell Siegel. No different than with Adam and Cain. It was the first truth in the Book of Lies: In the chosen families, the son was always far more dangerous than the father."
Thus begins the race for the world's most glorious treasure — a pursuit cleverly orchestrated by an anonymous prophet for a prize speculated to be hidden in the Book of Lies, a cache reputed to hold the weapon used by Cain to kill Abel and to also harbor the secret of immortality.
As characters pop out of the woodwork, Meltzer seamlessly weaves them into the plot. And all the while the evil Ellis is one step behind them, strewing debris from murder and mayhem in his relentless attempts to hijack the Book of Lies.

In their pursuit of treasure, all of the players rush to Cleveland to the modest former home of Jerry Siegel, creator of the ultimate superhero, Superman. But the journey doesn't end there. The quest becomes a personal odyssey for Cal, a search not only for the Book of Lies, but an examination of the truth upon which he has based his life.

Meltzer writes in the foreward of his novel, "Every writer has a story they've been waiting their whole life to tell. This is mine. The book is fiction, but it is based on fact. Most important, ‘The Book of Lies' isn't just a thriller about hero and villain. It's a story about us — the idea that all of us, in all our ordinariness, can change the world. The best stories are the ones we believe in. This is one I hope will challenge your beliefs."

Meltzer does challenge his readers’ beliefs and he never lets his audience down in this clever, intriguing new thriller, The Book of Lies. . .or should it be called The Book of Truth?

Meltzer’s book tour will take him to Austin on September12, Dallas on September 15, and Houston on September 16. Details are on his web site, A companion soundtrack to The Book of Lies is available for download at iTunes and

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