Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Steve Berry

Pub Date: May 14th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-345-52654-0
Publisher: Ballantine

Berry (The Columbus Affair, 2013, etc.) mixes Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and terrorists into Cotton Malone's eighth adventure.

Malone is retired from the Magellan Billet, the U.S. Justice Department’s supersecret unit. He now owns a Copenhagen bookstore. Malone’s been summoned to Atlanta, his ex-wife’s home, where she’s shocked their son, Gary, with a buried secret: Malone isn’t his biological father. Gary’s angry. He wants to spend time in Copenhagen. Aware of his trip, Malone’s former Magellan boss asks him to escort a runaway street kid to London. Ian Dunne witnessed a CIA agent’s death. Berry’s narrative catalyst was a real-life headline—Scotland’s release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The CIA isn’t happy, and the British government won’t act. The Malones and Dunne no sooner have their feet on the ground in London than they’re kidnapped by agents working for Blake Antrim, of the Brussels-based CIA special operations counterterrorism team. Antrim is scheming to use a Tudor-era conspiracy involving Elizabeth I that reflects on the current monarchy’s legitimacy to pressure the Brits to stop the release. Post–Malone kidnapping, there are escapes and evasions, all transpiring while Antrim’s crew also opens Henry VIII’s tomb in Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel. Next, hard-charging Kathleen Richards of England’s Serious Organized Crime Agency jumps into the whirlwind. Tudor-era rumors manipulating terrorist negotiations may seem realpolitik overkill, but it’s ample ammunition for Berry’s cinematic action to ricochet through castles, manor grounds and London’s Underground while involving a professor assassinated but not dead, scholarly twin sisters and Sir Thomas Mathews, the British SIS’s Machiavellian chief. Antrim’s efforts are apparently stymied by the Daedalus Society, an ancient monarchy-preservation group, but then he succumbs to a bribe. Sir Thomas dissembles, manipulates and murders; Antrim’s self-interest manifests; a secreted manuscript encoded by Robert Cecil, Elizabeth I’s confidant and secretary of state, is deciphered; Bram Stoker’s nonfiction work is cited, and Malone, the teenage boys and Richards survive more entrapments and gun battles than humanly possible. 

A Dan Brown-ian secular conspiracy about The Virgin Queen driving nonstop international intrigue.