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by Steve Berry

Pub Date: Dec. 9th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-345-48579-3
Publisher: Ballantine

Secret-agent-turned-bookseller Cotton Malone searches for the truth about his father’s death; uncovers revelations about a brilliant early civilization spurned by the Nazis; and earns the enmity of an endlessly evil admiral.

Our manly middle-aged recurring hero (The Venetian Betrayal, 2007, etc.) barely remembers his father, a naval officer whose submarine sank without a trace in 1971 when Malone was just ten, but he’s got a line on the truth about that sinking, an incident the Navy has covered up to the present day. Malone’s ex-boss Stephanie Nelle discharges a debt by producing a top-secret report on the sinking, long kept buried by Adm. Langford Ramsey, chief of naval intelligence. In the way of thrillers, Malone must receive the report at a tram stop high in the Alps and villains must immediately try to snatch it back, forcing him to toss a bad man from a moving ski lift and to beat a bad woman within an inch of her life. Within hours, Malone becomes involved with a Bavarian billionaire family, the Oberhausers, whose patriarchs believed that the emperor Charlemagne and his trusty lieutenant Einhard were chums with the Watchers, survivors of a brilliant civilization that had its peak long before the pyramids. Hard-bitten matriarch Isabel Oberhauser and her beautiful but fatally conflicted twin daughters, Christl and Dorothea, are interested in the secret report because the twins’ dad was also on that submarine, which went missing not in the Atlantic, as promulgated by the Navy, but off Antarctica, where the Watchers’ civilization had its heyday. Meanwhile, back in the United States, Adm. Ramsey, who knows everything about that ancient society, has dispatched his favorite hired killer to create an opening at the top of the naval structure and sent another underling to eliminate Malone and the Oberhausers. Thank goodness we have a shrewd president.

Berry sticks to his successful but bland fact-and-fantasy format.