Review

The Book of Lies

by Brad Meltzer

Brad Meltzer is brilliant. And versatile. How many people can
you name who have been both a presidential speechwriter and a
phenomenally successful thriller writer? Meltzer’s talents,
however, are not limited to speeches and novels. He is also a
popular writer of comic books; his stories draw on his encyclopedic
knowledge of some 60 years of graphic stories, and not just icons
like Superman and Batman. But what is especially impressive about
Meltzer is his familiarity with the stories behind those four-color
tales.

The backstory knowledge that Meltzer possesses forms the basis for
his latest work of fiction, THE BOOK OF LIES. This is what I call a
“chase” book, with the protagonist on the trail of a
prize and racing the bad guys who are also pursuing the good guys,
and the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Sure, it sounds
like a job for Superman. But what Meltzer gives us is a hero who is
more Clark Kent than Kal-El. And, as we soon see, there is nothing
wrong with that.

Calvin Harper is doing noble work on the streets of Miami,
performing rescue missions for a homeless shelter. Coming to the
aid of a homeless man who is the gunshot victim of an apparent
street crime, Cal is astounded to discover that the street person
is his own father. Lloyd Harper has been out of his life for over
19 years, ever since he was sent to prison for the apparently
accidental death of Cal’s mother. Lloyd’s sudden
re-entry into Cal’s life is an extremely dramatic one. He has
been hired to transport a mysterious, enigmatic cargo that, it
turns out, is supposed to be the weapon used in the first homicide
in recorded history: the slaying of Abel by his brother Cain. But
it holds something that is both more and less than that: an
“attic” copy of Action Comics Number 1, which
features the first public appearance of Superman.

What is even more fascinating, though, is that the bullet
responsible for Lloyd’s gunshot wound was fired from a gun
used in one other crime: the unsolved 1932 slaying of Mitchell
Siegel, father of Superman creator Jerry Siegel. Following an
address contained in the comic book, the uncomfortably united
father and son travel to the former Siegel house in Cleveland,
where a series of clues put them on the trail of an ancient Bible
that may contain either a powerful gift from God or the
world’s first murder weapon. Or both. Or neither. For even as
Lloyd and Cal search for what is arguably the oldest of all
treasures, they are themselves pursued by a coldly homicidal madman
who sees the artifact as his birthright and will stop at nothing to
claim it for his own and for the shadowy organization with which he
has become associated.

Brad Meltzer pulls off a brilliant move here. His fans in the comic
book community who don’t know much about his novels will find
THE BOOK OF LIES a fascinating read, given the way that it slices
in and out of the life of Jerry Siegel, a story known to but a
fraction of those who are familiar, either in passing or
intimately, with one of the most famous icons in America.
Meanwhile, his legion of thriller fans will find the basis for THE
BOOK OF LIES --- the first homicide, coupled with the story of the
creation of Superman, our most enduring modern-day icon --- to be
an unforgettable and riveting journey on a par with his previous
work.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011

The Book of Lies
by Brad Meltzer

  • Publication Date: September 2, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 044657788X
  • ISBN-13: 9780446577885