The Lightning Rod
March 5, 2022

Book Review

The Lightning Rod

reviewed by Carolyn Scott


Mortician Jim ‘Zig’ Zigarowski and army artist-in-residence Nola Brown who featured in Brad Meltzer’s first novel ‘The Escape Artist’ are back in another high intensity thriller.

Zig has left the military and now works at a funeral home in Pennsylvania, while Nola is reclusive and keeping a low profile, working as a botanical artist. This is all changed in an instant when Zig is asked to attend to the body of a dead service man, Col Archie Mint, at his old mortuary at Dover Air Force base.

At the US Government mortuary at Dover, fallen soldiers are prepared for their funerals and it is also where bodies from top secret and high-profile cases are sent. However, Archie Mint was killed during an attempted burglary at his home, not while he was on duty, so Zig is puzzled as to why he has been called in to attend to him there. When he notices anomalies in the body that are not on the autopsy report, he suspects there is some sort of cover up surrounding Mint’s death. However, he discovers the real reason he’s been called in when he recognises Nola Brown at the back of the crowd at the funeral. He realises he’s being watched because the minute he looks towards Nola, the watchers are chasing her.

Zig discovers that Mint and Nola were once part of a team involved in an event that occurred in the past at a secret military facility known as Grandma’s Pantry. Something the military has been trying to keep under wraps. After escaping from the funeral, Nola goes to ground again. Someone else is also looking for Nola – her long estranged twin brother Roddy, now a police officer. Zig agrees to help him find her but worries about Roddy’s true motives. Flashbacks suggest that Roddy was a malicious child who treated Nola badly during their time together in foster care until Nola was taken away, so has he really changed his ways and why has he shown up now?

This well written, fast-paced thriller has quite a complex plot, but it’s not too hard to follow as it progresses step by step to the suspense filled ending. Be prepared for plenty of action and many twists before it gets there. Zig is a wonderful character – compassionate and insightful and prepared to follow his nose when he smells something not quite right. Nola is the lightning rod – the one who attracts trouble. She bears the scars of her abusive and troubled childhood and doesn’t form relationships easily, dropping in and out of people’s and quietly disappearing again.  There are also some memorable secondary characters, including Zig’s friend FBI agent Amy Waggs and the almost farcical pair of assassins known as the Reds. Fans of Meltzer’s will be please to see that his chilling epilogue indicates that he already has plans for a third outing for Zig and Nola.

With thanks to William Morrow and Custom House via Netgalley for a copy to read. Publication March 8, 2022.


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