It was an alarming discovery—a severed human arm unearthed by the first lady in the White House Rose Garden, a strange coin clasped in its clenched fist. From one electrifying moment to another, that dismembered arm drives the plot of Brad Meltzer’s new novel, The President’s Shadow. President Orson Wallace calls upon archivist Beecher White to investigate the gory discovery and to find out who could have possibly permeated the tight security around the president’s home.
Beecher is a member of the secret Culper Ring, a small organization founded by George Washington to protect the presidency. One of the senior members of the ring is in a Washington, D.C., hospital fighting for his life and it is up to Beecher to act as front man in hunting down the villain.
Beecher has other concerns, too. His friend Clementine is dying of cancer and has disappeared after helping her mentally ill father, Nico Hadrian, escape from St. Elizabeth’s sanitarium. When the strange coin points to Beecher’s dad, however, the young archivist is compelled to leave no stone unturned in finding out the cause of his father’s death and, hopefully, identifying the felon who buried the arm. It wasn’t a car accident that killed his father, as he had been told, and his dad’s death now points to a little-known military unit, the Plankholders.
Soon, another arm is excavated from Camp David. This time the clenched hand gripped a white card with a message written in invisible ink. The disclosures in the hands of the unearthed arms contain coordinates for a secret Navy installation and all of the players—some good, some evil—converge upon one of the dry Tortugas, Devil’s Island off of Key West, the secret home base of the Plankholders. They must fight for not only their lives but for vital information that holds repercussions for the whole nation.
This is a fun read. If you have read Meltzer’s two previous Culper Ring books, the characters in The President’s Shadow will be familiar. If you haven’t read them, you should. Meltzer’s character development is particularly superb in this book. The author is a historian and his obvious love for historical trivia is not lost in this book. He is the creator/director/narrator of the TV shows Decoded and Lost History. He has also written a delightful childrens’ book series based on historical heroes such as Helen Keller, President Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other notables.