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by Steve Berry

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-345-50547-7
Publisher: Ballantine

Another historically tinged Cotton Malone thriller from Berry (The Charlemagne Pursuit, 2008, etc.).

Awakened by late-night noises, the former U.S. Justice Department agent finds that his secondhand bookstore in Copenhagen has been broken into by Sam Collins, who was sent by Cotton’s friend Henrik Thorvaldsen. Sam bears two crucial bits of news: 1) Henrik, the über-rich owner of a centuries-old family porcelain business, is in trouble; 2) unknown quantities of armed bad guys are breaking into the shop as they speak. After scaring off two malefactors, Sam and Cotton head to Henrik’s estate. His old friend, Cotton discovers, is about to infiltrate the Paris Club, a secret cabal of international financiers intent on bending the world’s economy to their fiscal needs. Paris Club member Lord Graham Ashby was involved in the murder of his son, Henrik tells Cotton, and he has sworn revenge. He’ll need the help of both Cotton and Sam, a former federal agent fired for maintaining a website that exposed conspiracies threatening the global financial system. The trio head to France, Henrik to ingratiate himself with Paris Club head Eliza Larocque, Sam and Cotton to gather intel from another online investigator of economic wrongdoing. Cotton learns that Stephanie Nelle, his former boss at the Justice Department, is planning an operation to take out the Paris Club and doesn’t want Henrik getting in the way; he finds himself caught between his loyalties to Stephanie and to his friend. Berry steers the plot along a well-worn trajectory, past a rogue’s gallery of cartoonish B-movie villains, through a series of easy-to-anticipate twists and turns, into outlandish action sequences and scenes tenuously connecting the contemporary story to actual past events. It all winds up with the requisite gun fight at a historic European cultural site. The author’s research is impressive (the MacGuffin involves Napoleon), but expending some effort on plot and characterization would have been more impressive.

Taxes credulity without even slightly taxing the intellect.