Title: The King’s Deception (Cotton Malone #8)
Author: Steve Berry (website)
Pub. Date: June 11, 2013
Source: e-ARC via netgalley
Summary: Cotton Malone and his fifteen-year-old son, Gary, are headed to Europe. As a favor to his former boss at the Justice Department, Malone agrees to escort a teenage fugitive back to England. But after he is greeted at gunpoint in London, both the fugitive and Gary disappear, and Malone learns that he’s stumbled into a high-stakes diplomatic showdown—an international incident fueled by geopolitical gamesmanship and shocking Tudor secrets.
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
He once thought his own family dysfunctional, but the Tudors proved that there was always something worse.
Cotton Malone, Justice Department agent-turned-antique bookseller, is still reeling from the news of his ex-wive’s betrayal. The revelation that Gary is not his son cut deep and hurt Gary even worse. The two plan to spend Gary’s Thanksgiving break together – Gary will fly out to Cotton’s shop in Copenhagen – but life never goes according to plan.
It seems the job of an agent – even an ex-agent – is never done and, as a favor, Cotton was asked to escort another teenager back home. 15-year old Ian Dunne witnessed a murder and fled the scene with a flash drive containing an unimaginable secret. Now the boy is in grave danger and only Cotton can save him.
Steve Berry is one of my go-to comfort authors and I was ecstatic to receive a copy of his latest. I first discovered Berry shortly after high school when I was coming off my Da Vinci Code high and looking for something similar. Somehow I came across one of Berry’s books and haven’t looked back. Guys, any of his books are perfect beach reads: blindingly fast pace, super short chapters (a few pages at most with multiple scenes per chapter), intriguing plots. Also, he helped fuel my Romanov obsession.
Don’t be intimidated by the length of his Cotton Malone series: one of the best things about Berry’s books is that you can jump in anywhere and not feel confused or lost. There are lots of details provided that will catch you up to speed without being overwhelming or bogged down with backstory.
Like his other books, The King’s Deception is jam-packed with characters but, apart from a few really minor ones, I never had any trouble keeping them straight and each had a distinct identity. Also in true Berry fashion, there are numerous plots that initially seem unrelated, but by the end, you’re left in awe of Berry’s mastery.
The main bulk of the novel questions Elizabeth I’s identity. Legends have circulated for centuries that the Virgin Queen wasn’t quite who she claimed to be and that flash drive Ian Dunne stole? It’s all the proof needed to show the monarch was a fraud. The ramifications of such a discovery would be immense: because the monarch was an impostor, any law or creed created during her reign now becomes void. Essentially this means that a good deal of Ireland was handed over to English colonists under false pretenses. This is HUGE and would ultimately lead to war.
Throughout the novel are multiple diary entries and letters describing how the switch happened and how the court ensured its secrecy. When Elizabeth was thirteen, she contracted a fever and died shortly after. A replacement was found – though at that time no one could have foreseen Elizabeth’s rise to power (she had been a few places down in the list of heirs). These chapters were SO fascinating and kept me glued to the book.
The only downfall to Berry’s writing is that you know from the start who the bad guys are. I like being shocked by a character’s double-cross, but here you know everyone’s motives from the start. A little more surprise would have been nice.
If you’re a Steve Berry newbie and want a good book to take on vacation, pick up a copy of The King’s Deception. While reading I kept pausing to look up so many portraits or historical tidbits (the Mask of Youth, for example!). All of it was so wonderfully researched and interesting; don’t be surprised if you see an upcoming History 101 post!