Featured Review: ‘The Lightning Rod’ by Brad Meltzer


Mega-famous author Lee Child called Brad Meltzer’s latest novel, The Lightning Rod, a “terrific, compelling, unputdownable thriller,” and he’s right on the money, as Meltzer continues to flash the talent that’s made him one of America’s most beloved authors.

The Escape Artist, which introduced readers to Nola Brown (the U.S. Army’s artist-in-residence), was released back in 2018 to much fanfare and critical praise on its way to debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list. Now, nearly four years later, Meltzer is back with another twisting, suspense-filled story, and so too is his prized protagionist, Nola, who remains as fascinating as ever. Also returning is mortician Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, still working out of Dover Air Force Base, and the story opens, once again, with him making a startling discovery.

On the surface, Archie Mint has it all. In fact, he’s living the life most people dream of—a successful career in the military, a beautiful wife, two wonderful children, well respected in the community. His luck appears to run out, though, when someone breaks into his home, and while trying to protect his family, Archie is killed. The tragic series of events soon leads to another revelation, shocking those who thought they knew Archie best, while kicking off a second explosive chain of events that nobody could have seen coming.

It was Zig who first noticed something while prepping Archie’s body for the upcoming funeral, and it doesn’t take the resourceful mortician long to connect the mysterious dots, ultimately finding that Archie was part of a top-secret military unit, as well as a surprise connection to Nola Brown. It’s the connection to Nola that ultimately leads to Zig becoming invested in the strange case, but there’s a problem. Nola, after saving Zig’s life just a couple of years prior, has since been on the run. And Zig knows that when someone with Nola’s capabilities doesn’t want to be found, they won’t be. Case in point, there’s a long list of people who want to speak with her, and yet none of them—even while using numerous means and government tools at their disposal—have had any luck tracking her down.

Thankfully, Zig has an ace up his sleeve and calls on Nola’s long-lost brother to help find her before it’s too late. But as he’ll soon learn, Archie’s secret life serves as a red herring, for nothing is ever really quite what it seems . . . . and with the clock rapidly ticking down, Zig must find a way to stay one step ahead of the forces barreling down on him, or face a fate similar to Mr. Mint.

In many ways, the less you know about this book, the better. Meltzer—who has long been known for not only beating headlines but keeping readers guessing right up until the very end—brings his A-game here, making the gap between novels well worth the wait. Without giving anything away, Nola, though in the background for much of the story (aside from flashback sequences that continue to flesh her out as a character), remains one of the brightest young stars of the genre. The mystique around her builds excitement and curiously, no doubt, but it’s Meltzer’s deft, unmatched understanding of character development that really makes her a special protagonist. All of that is true for Zig too, who is also more fleshed out in the sequel, giving the author a formidable one-two punch. The characters complement one another nicely, and yet each feels capable of starring on their own while bringing decidedly different traits to the story at hand. All of that, of course, is in addition to Meltzer’s fascinating plot, which moves at breakneck speeds, winding its way to yet another shocking, yet satisfying, ending that his readers won’t soon forget. Bottom line: this is Meltzer’s best work to date, and the sky is the limit for this series moving forward.

Twisting, shocking, and unbelievably timely, Brad Meltzer’s The Lightning Rod is one of the most anticipated books of 2022 for good reason . . . and will no doubt stand among the year’s vest best when it’s all said and done.

Book Details

Author: Brad Meltzer
Series: Zig/Nola #2
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062892401
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: March 8, 2022
Real Book Spy Rating: 9.75/10



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. Additionally, he co-hosts ThrillerTalk, a new podcast with K.J. Howe. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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