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The Lightning Rod: A Zig & Nola Novel


The Lightning Rod: A Zig & Nola Novel

The release of a new Brad Meltzer novel is a special event that is always worth celebrating. To begin with, you know you are going to get snappy dialogue and smart plotting, along with great characters. What really sets him apart is the legendary command of history packed into each of his books, to the point where you are almost guaranteed to walk away learning something new.

THE LIGHTNING ROD, the highly anticipated follow-up to Meltzer’s 2018 thriller, THE ESCAPE ARTIST, is no exception to this successful formula. He grabs you by the throat right away by letting you know that a young man, Anthony Wojowicz, has just 14 minutes to live. As a valet parker for a steakhouse in Pennsylvania, he makes side money by taking the cars of wealthy diners to their homes while they are eating and breaking in to steal something of value that can be resold. Unfortunately, Wojo has picked the wrong person on the wrong night.

"THE LIGHTNING ROD is high-octane writing and historical intrigue as only Brad Meltzer can produce, and the ride is a relentless one."

Once inside the house of the car’s owner, Archie Mint, he finds someone wearing an Oscar the Grouch mask wielding a gun and waiting for him in the guest bedroom. Wojo uses a taser on the man and makes a run for it. But much to his surprise, Mint is waiting for him in the vehicle. They struggle, but Wojo’s luck finally runs out as both he and Mint are shot and killed.

Enter Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, a mortician who spent most of his career at Dover Air Force Base. He is called in to personally work his magic on the body of Mint, a former member of the military whose colleagues insist on an open-casket funeral. Zig comes through, but not without being more than a little curious as to who Mint really was --- especially when he learns that the deceased never saw action and was only a reserve. Zig will be in for an even bigger surprise when Nola Brown, the infamous mystery woman who saved his life in THE ESCAPE ARTIST, shows up at the funeral. What could possibly be their connection?

Nola herself is alarmed, to say the least, to find her twin brother Roddy, a cop, also in attendance. They have not seen each other for decades, and the novel flashes back to when they parted ways. Nola is a disaster portrait artist, and her painting, Grandma’s Pantry, will cause quite a stir. The three people depicted in it are Mint, Rashida Robinson and Elijah King. Robinson allegedly committed suicide the same evening that Mint was murdered, but no one knows King’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Nola is on the loose and conducting her own search for answers. At one point, she comes upon a virtual reality game called Black House and finds someone playing online as Archie Mint. Meltzer decides to spice up the plot by tossing in a couple of lunatic assassins of uncertain allegiance --- a brother/sister duo known simply as the Reds who enjoy sawing people’s throats open, along with other forms of torture.

The novel’s title receives a nice reveal when one of Zig’s colleagues refers to Nola’s relationship to him as that of a lightning rod, a trigger point. She is certainly a dynamic character. Zig eventually is told that Black House originally referred to a location that President Nixon’s staff would use to discuss “off the record” items at the White House. He also learns that Grandma’s Pantry is supposed to be symbolic of where the government prepares for the end of the world.

Zig and Nola do not actually hook up until more than halfway through the story, which really keeps the suspense burning. Zig, who is spending most of his time with Roddy, learns of King’s location, and they head off to find him. King is full of additional secrets and surprises, and once Nola finally catches up to the gang, fireworks are in order.

THE LIGHTNING ROD is high-octane writing and historical intrigue as only Brad Meltzer can produce, and the ride is a relentless one. I look forward to joining Zig and Nola for whatever mischief they have in store for their next adventure.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on March 11, 2022

The Lightning Rod: A Zig & Nola Novel
by Brad Meltzer

  • Publication Date: September 27, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 006289241X
  • ISBN-13: 9780062892416