Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Lincoln Myth: A Cotton Malone novel by Steve Berry

Steve Berry's is famous for incorporating a larger historical puzzle in his plots.  In this latest Cotton Malone thriller Berry raises the question, "What if the Founding Fathers had executed a separate agreement at the time of the drafting of the US Constitution?  What if this unanimous agreement spoke of a fundamental right that is in direct conflict with the rights as we currently understand them to be?"

The blurb:
September 1861: All is not as it seems. With these cryptic words, a shocking secret passed down from president to president comes to rest in the hands of Abraham Lincoln. And as the first bloody clashes of the Civil War unfold, Lincoln alone must decide how best to use this volatile knowledge: save thousands of American lives, or keep the young nation from being torn apart forever?

The present: In Utah, the fabled remains of Mormon pioneers whose nineteenth-century expedition across the desert met with a murderous end have been uncovered. In Washington, D.C., the official investigation of an international entrepreneur, an elder in the Mormon church, has sparked a political battle between the White House and a powerful United States senator. In Denmark, a Justice Department agent, missing in action, has fallen into the hands of a dangerous zealot—a man driven by divine visions to make a prophet’s words reality. And in a matter of a few short hours, Cotton Malone has gone from quietly selling books at his shop in Denmark to dodging bullets in a high-speed boat chase.

All it takes is a phone call from his former boss in Washington, and suddenly the ex-agent is racing to rescue an informant carrying critical intelligence. It’s just the kind of perilous business that Malone has been trying to leave behind, ever since he retired from the Justice Department. But once he draws enemy blood, Malone is plunged into a deadly conflict—a constitutional war secretly set in motion more than two hundred years ago by America’s Founding Fathers.

From the streets of Copenhagen to the catacombs of Salzburg to the rugged mountains of Utah, the grim specter of the Civil War looms as a dangerous conspiracy gathers power. Malone risks life, liberty, and his greatest love in a race for the truth about Abraham Lincoln—while the fate of the United States of America hangs in the balance.

Steve Berry's thrillers come with a historical puzzle, a larger "what if" that develops just as his hero faces a more life sized crisis.  In The Lincoln Myth, the puzzle is rooted in US history from the time of the Founding Fathers and the Civil War.  There is a historical document which was given to George Washington to guard and which has subsequently been passed down by the US Presidents to their successor at the start of their terms.  This mysterious document can cause a fundamental and legal change to the US - but what it contains and how it might be used today are uncertain.

When retired bookseller Cotton Malone is once again drawn into assist his former boss, Stephanie Nell, he finds that this particular crisis hits him personally. We learn more about his love interest and her backstory.  

I did find the portrayal of the Church of the Latter Day Saints a little disturbing and uncomfortable and this kept me from fully enjoying The Lincoln Myth.   I was left with the same discomfort that I had with Dan Brown's portrayal of  the Roman Catholic Church and the Opus Dei in the Da Vinci Code.   

ISBN-10: 0345526570 - Hardcover $27
Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 20, 2014), 448 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

About the Author:
Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Lincoln Myth, The King’s Deception, The Columbus Affair, The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 40 languages with more than 17,000,000 copies in 51 countries.

History lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel. It’s this passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, that led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have traveled across the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners, and their popular writers’ workshops. To date, nearly 2,500 students have attended those workshops. In 2012 their work was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve the first spokesman for National Preservation Week. He was also appointed by the Smithsonian Board of Regents to serve on the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board to help promote and support the libraries in their mission to provide information in all forms to scientists, curators, scholars, students, and the public at large. He has received the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award and the 2013 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers. His novel The Columbus Affair earned him the Anne Frank Human Writes Award, and his historic preservation work merited the 2013 Silver Bullet from International Thriller Writers.

Steve Berry was born and raised in Georgia, graduating from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was a trial lawyer for 30 years and held elective office for 14 of those years. He is a founding member of International Thriller Writers—a group of more than 2,600 thriller writers from around the world—and served three years as its co-president.   For more information, visit

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