The President’s Shadow is the third installment of Brad Meltzer’s Inner Circle series, where while gardening in her secret spot at the White House, the First Lady discovers a severed arm holding a mysterious object. The secret service is alerted but the real mystery is how someone got onto the grounds without being spotted and stopped. Beecher White is a member of a secret order dedicated to protecting the president, known as the Culper Ring. He also works as an archivist when he isn’t attending the bedside of his previous boss, Tot; the man is long since in a coma after being shot. Nico, a psychotic killer, escapes from his high security mental institution while far off his daughter, Clementine, deals with the rages of cancer. He is assisted by the ghost of the former first lady, whom he killed. She speaks to him at odd intervals and informs him when he has not gone far enough on his mission. Yeah, that level of crazy. At the center of the mystery are the Plankholders, a military installation that claimed Beecher’s father’s life. Who were these mysterious men and how do they tie into two separate secret organizations from the time of Lincoln and a modern day presidency?
The President’s Shadow is complicated far past the point of regular intrigue and into the arena of just plain crazed. All the characters connect, but many in ways that seem unlikely. Like a graphic novel suddenly switched to a regular novel, each chapter is a new perspective, an alternate time, or another character. While this would work visually in an illustrated or television medium, it become tedious to keep track of each particular timeline while reading. Meltzer changes from first person to third person so often that every once in a while his tense changes mid chapter quite by accident. If one doesn’t realize this is the 3rd book in the Beecher White series, they will quickly find themselves wondering why so much of the story seems unfamiliar and like something they should already know.
To truly get what you want out of The President’s Shadow, I advise reading The Inner Circle and The Fifth Assassin before picking up the third book. The President’s Shadow, like the first two in the series, is a great book if you have a lot of time to kill on a flight or waiting for someone with no end in sight. Just make sure you’re willing to suspend your disbelief at the highest levels.