Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The King's Deception

by Steve Berry
409 pgs  (Cotton Malone series #8)

I always buy Steve Berry's books as soon as they come out, but I rarely read them right away. It's not that I don't enjoy them--I've enjoyed all of them. They're always entertaining and they involve some sort of little-known historical mystery or deception that Malone ends up getting dragged into at the risk of his life. Unfortunately, they're all fairly formulaic and so I don't find myself getting overly excited to read them. Instead, I get around to them when I feel like it.

This time around Malone finds himself enlisted by the CIA to investigate an historical mystery concerning Queen Elizabeth I. The CIA wants to blackmail the British government into stopping Scotland from releasing a Libyan terrorist who decades ago bombed a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. The man is in the final stages of terminal cancer and is being released as a show of humanitarianism. The CIA is determined to prevent his release and only sees one way to do it--they need to prove that the reason the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty became known as "The Virgin Queen," was because she was secretly a man.

I know how it sounds. I laughed out loud when the theory was first presented in the book. But to Berry's credit, he's a master researcher, and does an excellent job of converting his readers to the idea before he finishes. I don't know that I'll ever be able to look at a portrait of her/him again without considering the idea.

In his usual fashion, Berry combines historical locales and mysteries with fairly fast-paced action and in the end produces a book that is entertaining, but expected. I'm hoping that he mixes things up a little soon. Maybe he could kill off a vital character (his son Gary?) and send Malone into a rage-induced revenge crusade or something; anything to add a little unpredictability to the series and keep me on my toes.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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