The President's Shadow (Culper Ring Series #3)

The President's Shadow (Culper Ring Series #3)

by Brad Meltzer

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A severed arm, found buried in the White House Rose Garden.

A lethal message with terrible consequences for the Presidency.
And a hidden secret in one family's past that will have repercussions for the entire nation.

Following The Inner Circle and The Fifth Assassin, #1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer returns with . . .


There are stories no one knows. Hidden stories. I find those stories for a living.

To most, it looks like Beecher White has an ordinary job. A young staffer with the National Archives in Washington, D.C., he's responsible for safekeeping the government's most important documents . . . and, sometimes, its most closely held secrets.

But there are a powerful few who know his other role. Beecher is a member of the Culper Ring, a 200-year-old secret society founded by George Washington and charged with protecting the Presidency.
Now the current occupant of the White House needs the Culper Ring's help. The alarming discovery of the buried arm has the President's team in a rightful panic. Who buried the arm? How did they get past White House security? And most important: What's the message hidden in the arm's closed fist? Indeed, the puzzle inside has a clear intended recipient, and it isn't the President. It's Beecher, himself.

Beecher's investigation will take him back to one of our country's greatest secrets and point him toward the long, carefully hidden truth about the most shocking history of all: family history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446553964
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 12/22/2015
Series: Culper Ring (Beecher White) Series , #3
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 92,141
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Inner Circle, The Book of Fate, and seven other bestselling thrillers. In addition to his fiction, Brad is one of the only authors to ever have books on the bestseller list for nonfiction (History Decoded), advice (Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter), children's books (I Am Amelia Earhart and I Am Abraham Lincoln) and even graphic books (Justice League of America). He is also the host of Brad Meltzer's Decoded on the History Channel, and Brad Meltzer's Lost History on H2. He currently lives in Florida. You can find much more about him at You can also see what he's doing right now at and on Twitter @bradmeltzer.



Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., University of Michigan; J.D., Columbia University


Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Brad Meltzer

"The news is always depressing, right? That's why we read thrillers." From the floor of BookExpo America, Brad Meltzer sat down to discuss humble beginnings, seeing himself on billboards, his take on political conspiracy theories, and why the best writing advice of his career came from his mom. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation. — Nick Curley

The Barnes & Noble Review: I'd be hard-pressed to name any other author here at BookExpo who is soon releasing massive books for two different publishers. As I was walking up here this morning, there was an enormous billboard of . . .

Brad Meltzer: . . . my giant head. Right? Did you see the other side? [Presents photograph on his phone of the back of a billboard, revealing both the back of his head and back of The President's Shadow in their respective majesties.] It's like me re-posing the pose.

BNR: Even at fifty feet high, it's very slimming.

BM: That's all I ask for.

BNR: What is your reaction when you see something like that?

BM: Do you know what my first thought is? "My friends are going to give me such crap for this." Which probably tells you more about my friends. I feel blessed that they went and did something like that. But you can't take that seriously. You have to laugh. If there are any car accidents this weekend, it's because my family is there taking pictures of the thing nonstop.

BNR: Do you have an earliest memory of writing a story?

BM: In fifteen years, no one has ever asked me that. I don't want to give you a fast answer. I want to give you the right answer.

I remember writing a lot. For me it actually started with art. My first stories were comic books, and Agatha Christie-style mysteries. They were very pop-culturey. I used to take tracing paper and put it over Superman and Batman, because I couldn't draw, but I wanted to create, and I didn't know how. So I would just trace every line. Like a maniac. Like a crazy person.

Oh, you know what? I got one better than that. Now my synapses are firing. I'll tell you that one, too.

I applied to only one college. My family didn't have money to apply to a lot of colleges, so it was basically kind of like, "Pick one and we'll give you the money to apply to that one." I applied to the University of Michigan, which is where I wound up going.

Instead of writing an essay that tells you about yourself, I wrote a love letter. I said, "Dear University of Michigan, I love you." I'm risking it all, I don't care, maybe a disaster, but this is what I've got. I really still think to this day that I got in because of that essay. My grades were fine, but this essay was like, "This is where I am, this is who I am; I'm going throw it down, and either this is going to be a big disaster that they frame and say, "This is what you should never do" or . . .

BNR: There had to be some grateful admissions officer out there . . .

BM: . . . who was getting fifty million essays about how your mother is your inspiration. But I didn't know that.

Before that, the Miami Herald had a contest to talk about your favorite vacation place. Again, we didn't have a lot of money, so we didn't go on vacations. My family didn't do that. So I made up that my favorite vacation was a University of Michigan football game. I had never been to a football game at the University of Michigan. Total fiction, masquerading as truth. I think I got second or third place. Dave Barry and all these people were the judges, and the Herald gave me about fifty bucks. A ton of money to me. I knew when that happened: "Wow, they believed that."

BNR: You're writing in a variety of different mediums for unique audiences. Is there a particular time or place that you write best in? What does your workspace look like?

BM: I don't need a place. The only thing I need is for the place to be the same, over and over. Most of the time, I write at home. I wrote my first book in a closet, in a crappy apartment. It was a walk-in closet that I said was "my office." I had no windows. All I could squeeze in there was a chair and a bookshelf.

BNR: You were living with author Judd Winick at the time. BM: Yeah, in Boston. We had a two-bedroom apartment. Each of us had a closet, and both of us made the closets our offices. Imagine your closet. Imagine me writing in there for a year. As long as it's the same place, eventually the walls fall away, and then I'm in my magical mystery place.

I once had something happen in my house, and so for months I wrote The Millionaires in the library. On the first day, I can't help but stare and look around, but by day ten . . . As long as it's the same place, everything fades. You want everything to disappear. I could even write here eventually, as long as I'm here every day.

BNR: The President's Shadow follows The Inner Circle and The Fifth Assassin as the next Beecher White tale. How do you think an author finds new life in a returning character? How does that character evolve through recurring books?

BM: I never wanted to do a series character. When I started my career, I remember thinking, "If you're doing a series character, it's because you can't come up with new ideas." I know it's because I was young and stupid. Then the truth was, when I wrote Batman [comic books], I realized that when you do a series character, you can find so many beautiful layers you never saw before. For me, that was the fun. I always knew Beecher's full story, and this is where you see the payoff of it. To me, those three books are really one book. I see them as one adventure.

BNR: This particular book delves further into "the Culper Ring," the secret society to protect the president. Readers are drawn into this notion of a shadowy, secret Washington behind the curtain. Do you personally subscribe to the notion that there are underground contingents going on within government operations?

BM: I don't think there's some guy stroking his cat, twirling his moustache, trying to take over the world. But here's what I know. Years ago, I got a call from the Department of Homeland Security, asking me to come and bring in some different ways that terrorists could attack the United States. My first thought when that happens is, "If they're calling me, we have bigger problems than anybody thinks." But I was honored to be part of the Red Cell program. They paired me with a Secret Service agent and a chemist. They would give us a target, like a U.S. city, and we would destroy the target. When I traced it back through history, I saw that the method traveled back to one person: George Washington. Washington had his own secret spy ring made up of regular, ordinary people. When I said to my friend in Homeland Security, "Wouldn't it be cool if you found out that George Washington's spy ring still exists?" he said to me, "What makes you think it doesn't?"

I don't think governments lie. People lie, and they lie for very personal and sometimes selfish reasons. So I am not the subscriber of grand, vast conspiracies, because I think people can't keep their mouths shut that often. I do think there are people doing very horrible things. But it's never as complex as the movie makes it out to be.

The fact that they called me, and I volunteered, and no one knew about it for years, because we couldn't talk about it — that all happened. I lived it. So I know that there are things happening in the government that nobody knows about.

BNR: Be it a series or be it a stand-alone book, do you a great thriller has certain components, or common ingredients?

BM: A good story is a good story. That's it. That's the only rule. When I did my first book, it had humor. The characters were young, and they were cracking jokes. It seems very obvious now, but at the time there were people saying, "You can't do a thriller like this; they have to be scared and running." I thought, "Why can't they be like us?" But back then, fifteen years ago, the Washington Post said it was breathtaking. "Fresh new ground" or whatever they called it.

Whether it's a thriller or literary fiction, the best one that's going to be written is being worked on right now by some woman in her garage that none of us had ever heard of. She is going to present a brand-new way to do this that none of us has ever thought of. I love that. What will it be at the end of the day, when you really boil it down? It will be a good story, and that's what it should be. A good story will have a good character, someone you care about, and that's pretty much all you need.

BNR: In crafting a Washington-based series, has it changed your view of the way the system works or the way politicians work at all? Do you find yourself more optimistic or more pessimistic about our current climate?

BM: Listen, the news is depressing. The news is always depressing, right? That's why we read thrillers. But as I've gotten older, the one thing I've struck by is just how human the people in power are. When I started my career, I never wrote the president as a character. I wrote a whole book about the White House, and the president doesn't have a line of dialogue. Because I didn't understand the president. He just seemed like this cliché who would run around. People would say, "Yes sir" and "no sir." It wasn't a real person. But then, after being fortunate to be able to meet a couple of U.S. presidents, you see they are just as human as us. They are great, sad, amazing, weak — just like all of us are all those things.

I used to think that there were good people and bad people. But what makes a great conspiracy is that all of us are a little good and all of us are a little bad, and it's much more complex than you think when there's a problem. That to me makes for a better story.

BNR: Given your abundant body of work, one question that you perhaps receive from readers that may apply here is: do you sleep?

BM: I don't even really write any more. I just pay some kids in Malaysia to do it for me. Look: I have one rule. That is, you have to love everything you're working on. If I love it, I'll find time for it. If I love the children's books, I'll find time for it. If you love what you do, you'll find time to do it.

Whatever your hobby is in your life, that thing you're passionate about, no matter how busy you are in your life, whether it's gardening or coin collecting or comic book collecting or dressing up as Wonder Woman at night, whatever your thing is, you find time for it. Why? Because you love it. That's how I approach everything I work on. So whether it's a kids' book, a thriller, a television show, whatever it might be, I have to feel passionate about it. No matter what, I've got to keep doing it. And then I'll find the time. And then at four o'clock, even when I want to just take off and be done, I'll say, "No, I'm going to do this, because this story needs to be told."

BNR: Is there a genre or medium that you've not yet had the opportunity to try your hand at that you sort of have in mind?

BM: Young Adult. I know the story I have to tell. I know what I want to do. But I just haven't physically felt the time yet. I've got to make the time. But I want to do Young Adult.

BNR: I was talking to Paulo Bacigalupi of The Water Knife and The Windup Girl, and one thing that he was saying about writing for young adults is that the propulsion of the story is such that you have to keep your audience interested on every page.

BM: Every page.

BNR: In closing, can you recall a memorable piece of advice that you received as a writer?

BM: My second book had come out and hadn't done very well. My publisher was shutting down, and I thought this was the end of my career. I called my mom — terrified — and I said to her, "I'm just worried it's over; that I'm finished." And she said to me, "I'd love you if you were a garbage man." And she wasn't taking a crack at garbage men. My uncle was a garbage man. She was saying, "I don't care if you're the king of England or the guy who sweeps the floors; it doesn't matter. I love you. I'm here for you." To this day, every day that I sit down to write, I say those words in my head, just soaking in my mom's love for me. It's what gives me perspective.

I got twenty-four rejection letters on my first book. There were only twenty publishers. I got twenty-four rejection letters. I think the advice that I'd give to anyone is, "Don't let anyone tell you no." Whatever you do, whether you want to write a book, or you're a teacher, lawyer, doctor, stay-at-home mom or dad: don't let anyone tell you no. That is exactly how you can get what you want. You have to keep telling yourself yes.

BNR: That's such a resonant idea for me, in that people - - particularly artists — stave off their own happiness. Young writers are guilty of saying, in so many words, "I'll be lovable only after I've published my book."

BM: That means you're looking for love on an accomplishment. That will never bring you happiness. Your happiness will never come from some outside accolade. You love yourself first, and then you can be loved.

August 12, 2015

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The President's Shadow 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Linda__ More than 1 year ago
This is a phenomenal book that is filled with twists and turns as it follows Beecher trying to find his father. While this sounds like it might be a family tale, it is so much more. This novel is book 3 in the Beecher White series and the Culper Ring. What follows is a complex tale that shows us the underbelly of the government's darkest secrets. While this is a novel, is dances very close to actual atrocities committed by the government. This, combined with Brad Metzger's superb skill, makes this a taunt and chilling novel that you just cannot put down. I recommend it very highly to fans of the genre. Thank you to the publisher for providing a complementary ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Mallory_SupernaturalFan More than 1 year ago
Review:  THE PRESIDENT'S SECRET by Brad Meltzer (Beecher White #3) Brad Meltzer is a must-read author for me. Not only can I count on exciting and unexpected plot twists, eternally-ratcheting suspense, and fascinating characters; no matter which story, I'll be educated, usually on some overlooked or even secretive aspect of U.S. history. THE PRESIDENT'S SECRET is the third in the series about Beecher White of the National Archives, and the reconstituted Culper Ring, originally initiated by George Washington. It's a humdinger, and I couldn't stop till I finished!
CPAC2012 More than 1 year ago
In The Inner Circle, Tot invited fellow archivist Beecher White to join the Culper Ring--a secret group first assembled by George Washington during the Revolutionary War to protect his secrets and win the war--after Beecher stumbled upon a presidential secret. In The Fifth Assassin, the sequel, apparently (I haven’t read it yet) Tot was shot in the head and Beecher assumed his position as the head of what remained of the Culper Ring. In The President’s Shadow, this third installment in the Culper Ring series, Beecher “sneaks” into the White House only to discover they were waiting for him all along. The First Lady Shona Wallace unburies, while gardening, a severed arm that had been buried in the Rose Garden by a White House intruder. The president’s inner circle suspects it was done with inside help. In its closed fist, the severed arm is holding a penny with an inscription that ties it to Beecher’s personal history, or rather, that of his father’s service in the armed forces. Beecher needs the president to know more about his father and how he died. The president needs to keep the investigation under wraps and off the press. Who better than Beecher and his Culper Ring to investigate? I think this country is in real trouble if the Secret Service needs help from an archivist to solve a case like this, still I willingly went along for the ride. Count on Brad Meltzer to concoct a story where fact and fiction intertwine seamlessly and U.S. history is just part of the mix with such outlandish result that could very well be real. With small bite chapters and easy to read prose, The President's Shadow will breeze before your eyes. Secret government agencies, ultra secret government projects in off the grid locations, conspiracy theories...What's not to like?! Strongly recommend it. DISCLAIMER: I received from the publisher a free Galley of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just wanted to mention a humdinger of a book and one that will really educate you further-"THE PRESIDENT'S SHADOW".Totally awesome!!!!!!!!!! (:
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read a lot of books but love the way the author tells the story. Looking forward to the next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the multiple layers of conspiracy competing for the same goal . Also I like the easy to read style .
Drewano More than 1 year ago
Another intriguing tale involving the culper ring which includes some flashbacks to help fill in what happened to the plank holders. The same cast of characters returns in a well designed plot which in a book which is well written. I like the characters and the storyline, and while the author keeps the series open for continuation he wraps up this story nicely making it a good suspense series. The author is taking a break from these stories for a while but I hope it isn’t too long!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great "Beecher" book! I was so enthralled with this book, I read it in 1 evening; I couldn't put it down until I had finished! I really love the conspiracy, government secrets and insider looks at places like Camp David and The White House. Mr. Meltzer's writing style is superb; I especially like how he weaves so much actual history into every story that you usually learn a lot from them, and you can easily imaging them actually happening in real life.
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JCHJL More than 1 year ago
I have had a difficult time staying with this one. The back and forth I think is confusing. I have put it down and will pick it up at a later time. At this point I cannot recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bill-NJ More than 1 year ago
What a huge disappointment. After being left hanging in suspense at the end of The Fifth Assassin some years ago, along comes this rag tag collection of overly exaggerated scarred and maimed central characters. Teeth falling out secondary to chemotherapy. Burned faces. Psychotic killer talking to the first lady that he murdered. Really? All a bit too much over the top for this reader. On a personal note, I did read the author's prologue about his own personal journey and challenges over the past several years. Thoughts and prayers are with him.
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mikeburton04 More than 1 year ago
I've read all the Culper Ring books. Not only are the stories enthralling, but you get a taste of our country's history at the same time.
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