The Lightning Rod
The Escape Artist Book 2
March 8th, 2022
The Lightning Rod by Brad Meltzer mixes a suspenseful plot with unique characters. What starts off as a thriller whodunit, quickly transitions into a conspiracy theory. Meltzer’s been writing for 25 years but his books keep getting better and better. This story has a game of cat and mouse, danger at every turn, and deep US government secrets.
“This idea started with my own fears. I hand my car keys to a valet. They take the car, hit the GPS button, and go to my house. This is a robbery. This is my fear every time I park my car. The story evolves from there, when it is not a robbery at all, but a trap. I really wanted to base the story on the characters, Nola, and Zig, who I am bringing back from the previous book, The Escape Artist. I have more to say about them including having Nola’s greatest secret come out.”
The book opens with a car theft that quickly turns into a murder after Colonel Archie Mint is killed outside his suburban Pennsylvania home in a supposed home robbery. Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, a mortician who formerly worked at Dover Air Force Base, is called in to conceal Mint’s injuries for the sake of his family. But at the viewing, things happen that make him suspect that not everything is as it should be. When Zig spots Nola Brown at Mint’s funeral he becomes more suspicious. As a former military artist, Nola was called upon not only to paint historic events, but to spot critical things that others missed. Now, for unknown reasons, she’s hunting the people who killed Mint. During the investigation, it is discovered that Mint was connected to a hidden military facility known as Grandma’s Pantry, one of many US government top-secret warehouses across the country dealing with repercussions of a biological attack.
“The book has these secret warehouses across the country that deal with bioterrorist attacks. The US can bring these antidotes within hours to our doorstep. The warehouses are hidden across the country, so nobody knows where they are. I want to go inside them. I did not make up what is inside them. Grandma’s Pantry was one of those that has a national stockpile that would prepare us in case there’s a bio-terror attack, whether it’s smallpox or anthrax or anything else.”
There is also the mystery of Rodney, Nola’s twin brother, who is looking for her. Although volatile, he wants to find her before some would-be-assassins known as the Reds. Joining up with Zig is the only way he will find Nola, so he is also pulled into the investigation.
“Rodney is a walking question mark. He was a bad kid but is he a bad adult? Is he a villain or not? For the first time I wanted to delve into the bad guy aspect. He is weird, socially awkward, with non-existent social skills, detailed, and on his own plane. He has no filters, ferocious, and at times violent. The key part of him is that there is good Rodney and bad Rodney. Sometimes people are in-between, not totally good, or bad. I put in this book quote, ‘We all have a person we were and a person we are. It’s never a straight line between the two – and its certainly never a predictable one.’ Every character in this book is designed around this quote and the quote in the beginning of the book by Carl Jung, ‘In each of us there is another, whom we do not know.’”
This story has it all, more plot twists, conspiracies, and action. Meltzer also writes children’s books that will include superheroes Superman and Batman. But in The Lightning Rod, he has created his own superheroes that don’t have any super qualities but have super investigative skills that make for a super story.