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Book Talk: Meltzer, ‘The Escape Artist’

Meltzer notes his twentieth year of publications, not with a Preface or Prologue, but with Acknowledgments at the front of the book. He uses five pages to thank the people who have helped him over the decades, as well as his readers who have made him a bestselling author. I thought it was a nice touch.


“The Escape Artist” (2018, 491 pages in paperback format) is a murder mystery which features Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, a mortician who has devoted his life to preparing the bodies of armed service personnel. His skill is rebuilding heads, faces, and bodies so that victims of the horror of war look presentable to family and friends. Although his work is done at Dover Air Force Base, he has also worked on victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.


This case opens with an airplane crash in Alaska, in which all passengers in an Air Force transport plane were killed, including Nelson Rookstool, Librarian of Congress and friend of President Orson Wallace. But Zig is less interested in him (or the President who shows up on base) than Sgt. Nola Brown, an Army artist-in-residence. She is one of the most enigmatic characters about whom Meltzer has ever written. However, when Zig examines the body, he discovers that it is not Nola because Nola lost part of her left ear years earlier when she shielded Zig’s daughter Maggie from an explosion, saving her life. However, Maggie, who dominates Zig’s thoughts night and day, died a year later.

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