Sunday, August 17, 2008

Book Review - The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry

The Charlemagne Pursuit
Steve Berry
Ballantine Books
Copyright 2008; 509 pages
Advance Reader’s Edition

Cotton Malone’s most personal adventure to date pits him in league and at odds with sisters Dorothea and Christl Oberhauser. In 1971 a nameless, super-secret United States nuclear submarine is lost in Antarctica. Aboard is Cotton’s father, Forrest, Officer-in-Charge, and Dietz Oberhauser, mission Field Specialist and the patriarch of the Oberhauser fortune. The assignment and the submarine are so secret that its existence and the incident are hidden from the public for over 40 years. When Cotton is approached by the sisters, who search for answers concerning the death of their father and that ill-fated mysterious journey, he reluctantly joins them in their quest which parallels his investigation of his father’s disappearance.

The mystery grows when secrets from the reign of the Emperor Charlemagne are revealed and the plot then entwines elements of rogue foreign intelligence officers, a corrupt Navy officer bent on becoming the next Vice-President, deranged racial Nazi philosophy, a strange manuscript from Charlemagne’s tomb and the mystery of an ancient hidden civilization. The manuscript, which has never been translated, the architecture of Charlemagne’s Chapel, historical characters from the Holy Roman Empire and the hint of a pre-historic advanced civilization deepen the mystery and provide an intriguing thriller filled with unforgettable characters and an exciting sense of action.

Yes, Berry finds a way to bring all these elements together in a satisfactory and entertaining climax.

Cotton Malone is a very interesting and memorable character. Part Doc Savage, part Indiana Jones mixed with a bit of Mack Bolan he is the epitome of the macho secret agent; intelligent enough to crack difficult puzzles, ruthless enough to kill when necessary and, as a rare book dealer, has an extremely erudite grasp of world history. All of which make him a difficult and formidable opponent.

This is the third Cotton Malone novel I’ve had the pleasure to read and Berry never fails to keep my interest.

Note: The mysterious manuscript used throughout the book is known as the Voynich Manuscript which is an actual illustrated book of unknown origin written in an indecipherable text between 1450 and 1520 AD. It plays a pivotal role in the book and I was very excited to see it used as a plot device. The author, script, and language of the manuscript remain unknown to this day. Not a single word from this document has ever been deciphered.

Four out of five stars.

Books in the Cotton Malone Series:
1. The Templar Legacy (2006)
2. The Alexandria Link (2007)
3. The Venetian Betrayal (2007)
4. The Charlemagne Pursuit (2008)

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