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Cotton Malone #7

The Jefferson Key

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Four United States presidents have been assassinated -- in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963 -- each murder seemingly unrelated and separated by time.

But what if those presidents were all killed for the same reason: a clause in the United States Constitution -- contained within Article 1, Section 8 -- that would shock Americans?

This question is what faces former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone in his latest adventure. When a bold assassination attempt is made against President Danny Daniels in the heart of Manhattan, Malone risks his life to foil the killing -- only to find himself at dangerous odds with the Commonwealth, a secret society of pirates first assembled during the American Revolution. In their most perilous exploit yet, Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt race across the nation and take to the high seas. Along the way they break a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson, unravel a mystery concocted by Andrew Jackson, and unearth a centuries-old document forged by the Founding Fathers themselves, one powerful enough -- thanks to that clause in the Constitution -- to make the Commonwealth unstoppable.

456 pages, Hardcover

First published May 17, 2011

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About the author

Steve Berry

120 books6,364 followers

Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of twenty novels, which include: The Omega Factor , The Kaiser's Web, The Warsaw Protocol, The Malta Exchange, The Bishop’s Pawn, The Lost Order, The 14th Colony, The Patriot Threat, 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 41 languages with over 25,000,000 copies in 52 countries. They consistently appear in the top echelon of The New York Times, USA Today, and Indie bestseller lists. Somewhere in the world, every thirty seconds, one of his novels is sold.

History lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel. It’s his passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, which led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have crossed the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners, and their popular writers’ workshops. To date, 3,500 students have attended those workshops with over $1.5 million dollars raised.

Steve’s devotion to historic preservation was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve its spokesperson for National Preservation Week. Among his other honors are the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award; the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award given by Poets & Writers; the Anne Frank Human Writes Award; and the Silver Bullet, bestowed by International Thriller Writers for his philanthropic work. He has been chosen both the Florida and Georgia Writer of the Year. He's also an emeritus member of the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board. In 2010, a NPR survey named The Templar Legacy one of the top 100 thrillers ever written.

Steve 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

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,334 reviews
Profile Image for Frances.
192 reviews318 followers
January 11, 2015
Hang on to your Seat – It’s a Roller Coaster!
Steve Berry is a favourite author and his recent book does not disappoint. After reading just a few electrifying paragraphs suddenly it would leap effortlessly to yet another scene creating an exhilarating roller coaster of a ride throughout the entire book. Quite remarkable as other books can confuse the reader by jumping back and forth. But not so with the Jefferson Key. It flowed along smoothly, and was a very exciting, suspenseful read. Highly recommended for those action packed readers.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
121 reviews2 followers
February 22, 2012
This book started out good. I was really enjoying it and planned to read the rest of the series, then...

The action middle of the book has too many characters doing too many things at once. The text skips around so fast you can't follow what is going on with any one character for very long. Even in the center of the character's story, there are single sentences that don't fit with the narrative just popped in.

Then...it seems like there is some challenge out there for writers to write the most demented scenes with the most graphic torture immaginable. Stever Berry probably wins the contest. There really is no point in thinking up hugely horrible torture scenes, average horrible torture scenes work just fine for an action novel.

The female characters are stongly incompetent. That part was really frustrating. "I am super woman. I can make this rescue all on my own. Then men around me agree because I am so good. Oh, woops, I blundered and now that other formerly stong female character is being dismembered before my eyes."

Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,892 followers
June 12, 2011
Steve Berry is a bright guy who writes thrillers that are great for people with attention deficit. You get to change location and subject every couple of paragraphs. Wild global ping-pong kinda stuff. When you get to the end, you think well, that was sure a nice ride, but I have no idea what I just read.
Speaking of rides, best damn scene in the whole book is the motorcycle ride down the stairway of a fancy hotel!
61 reviews8 followers
April 9, 2012
Ugh. I sometimes (often!) wonder how my opinion of a particular book differs so radically from the mainstream view. ? Different tastes, I guess. Anyway, no - I really didn't like this book at all. It irritated me no end. This is one of those 'DaVinci' genre books, complete with all the trimmings: a dark historical secret, a secret group of men that exists to this day, a coded message that no one can break, droppings of historical interest here and there (in this case, the history of piracy - which doesn't interest me one bit), etc. Been there, done that - and done much better by others, I might add.

Each addition to the genre gets weirder and stranger, as we have here. The whole historical thing in this book is rather far fetched and overwrought. Simply put, it's not believable. And as a reader, I can take only so much suspension of belief; here, I have to commit to a bizarre and totally unreasonable premise .... and I obviously have trouble doing that. I can't enjoy a book that makes me feel stupid for believing in it.

There is no (repeat NO) character development here - pure unadulterated plot. Now I can take that sometimes, but not here. I enjoy it when the plot itself is craftily done, and the phrasing etc. builds to suspense. Here, Berry has cheaped out -- each chapter is full of short little one, two or three paragraph 'jumps' -- from one scene of action to the next. Jumpy jumpy, let me tell ya. And each little jump ends with a 1920s style 'cliff hanger' --- one after another. I found this distracting and annoying, not suspenseful.

So, halfway through - it got the axe.
Profile Image for ✰ Bianca ✰ BJ's Book Blog ✰ .
2,134 reviews1,185 followers
April 15, 2018

Cotton Malone!
I just love these books. Cotton is amazing. You learn something about history and the world and it's super exciting!
And this book was just as great as the others - BUT ... there was a bit too much Pirate stuff in there. It was just too much. There are also too many people telling the story - we have 5 POVs!
And sometimes Steve just drones on and on about things I wasn't interested in. BUT, I also still loved the book. I love Cotton and Cass together and the last 150 pages were really exciting!
Looking forward to book #8 - no idea when I'll have the time though :/


Smokin Hot Book Blog Email
Profile Image for Matt.
3,666 reviews12.8k followers
July 28, 2011
Not as entertaining a book as I am used to from Berry, but still a great effort. The book examines the presidential assassinations and how they all tie together, through an underground group, The Commonwealth.

Berry also examines the world of pirates and privateers in this latest edition of the Cotton Malone series. Malone stays on this side of the Atlantic and pits him against this underground group and his nemesis from the short story The Devil's Gold.

The storyline did drag a little at times, but I thoroughly enjoyed the CANADIAN content Berry uses to keep the historical accuracy.
Profile Image for Kristen.
2,168 reviews50 followers
February 1, 2013
As always, Steve Berry spins one hell of a yarn!

For this book, Berry has set his story inside the U.S. and involves the earliest years of the country, when there was no military. Instead the founding fathers offered letters of mark to four individuals - either privateers or pirates, depending who you talk to - who could bedevil the young America's enemies on behalf of the government. In return, they are promised immunity from any prosecution, and the right to keep most of the spoils they acquire, inperpetuity.

But some years later, there is an attempt on the current President's life, and the government decides not to honour the letters of mark, and Thomas Jefferson creates an unbreakable code that hides the location of the pages that validate the claim of the privateers for more than a hundred years. But most Presidents in the intervening years leave the privateers - now calling themselves the Commonwealth - alone to make their money. The exceptions are the four Presidents who refused, and who were assassinated.

The current President, Danny Daniels is also inclined to prosecute the Commonwealth, so an attempt is made on his life. But Daniels has an ace in the hole, because he has Cotton Malone.

What follows is a race between Malone and the Commonwealth to break Jefferson's code, find the missing pages, and determine who wins. It's a rip-roaring ride, and Berry does what he is a master at - combinine real-life people and events with a great fictional plot. There's tons of excitement and drama and thrilling crises. There are also the variety of great characters that Berry is so good at creating.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone who likes mystery/thrillers or American history.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books93 followers
July 22, 2011
Steve Berry's "The Jefferson Key," mixes history and fiction to produce a story that is interesting and intriguing.

Cotton Malone, former Justice Dept. operative, is summoned to New York only to be caught up in an attempt on the President's life. He manages to stop the assassination and realizes that he had been set up to take the blame if it succeeded.

The story begins with an attempt on Andrew Jackson's life after he informed a group of pirates or privateers, that their services were no longer desired by the United States. He removes the groups letter of marque and establishes a code which would enable the group to remove the President's condemnation of their acts.

Jonathan Wyatt, a rogue agent, has a grudge against Cotton Malone and tries to implicate Malone in the actions against the President.

The society of privateers is known as The Commonwealth and led by Quinten Hale. They steal from enemies of the United States and sell their goods on the black market. This group has a major role in the four Presidents who have been assassinated.

There is plenty of action and political maneuvering with characters who are so real that they could be taken from the front pages of the daily newspapers.

The plot is somewhat like "The Da Vinci Code," in that there is a race to see who would solve the mystery of where the code is hidden and the ability to solve it.

Steve Berry is at the height of his powers as a writer of political fiction and this novel demonstrates a new view of history that is fascinating.
Profile Image for Samantha.
336 reviews4 followers
March 17, 2018
I have always enjoyed Steve Berry's style of fast paced writing, he keeps the story moving along really well. I did, however, struggle a little with this entry in the Cotton Malone series, as it is not so much an adventure this time around as a struggle to protect the President from an historical threat that had extended its grasp from the past into the present. I found that it didn't capture my attention and I did find my interest waning I hope that the next instalment revitalises my love of this series.
Profile Image for Steven Z..
573 reviews115 followers
December 10, 2019
I began reading Steve Berry novels over a decade ago beginning with THE TEMPLAR LEGACY. Mr. Berry’s command of history and his innovative approach to storytelling were readily apparent and having read seven more of his works I have never been disappointed. Berry’s central character Harold Earl “Cotton” Malone, lawyer, former member of an elite Justice Department group, pilot, and naval officer, leads his readers through interesting plot lines within the context of fascinating historical palates. Malone retired to open a bookshop in Copenhagen, Denmark hoping to achieve some sort of peace, but trouble always seems to knock on his bookshop’s door. Berry has developed a series of characters that have joined Malone that have provided further insights into his life and character. Stephanie Nell, his former boss at the Magellan Billet, a special investigative unit within the Justice Department, Cassiopeia Vitt, a Renaissance woman with bite, and Edward Davis former Assistant head of the National Security Council and currently Chief of Staff to President Danny Daniels. all add to his novels as do numerous other characters. The seventh installment of the Malone series is THE JEFFERSON KEY which finds our protagonist confronted with the attempted assassination of the President of the United States; the Commonwealth, a secret society of pirates who date back to the American Revolution; a secret cipher originally belonging to Thomas Jefferson; unraveling a mystery fostered by Andrew Jackson, and the need to locate a document forged by the Founding Fathers.

As in all of his books Berry has concocted a very complex plot with multiple characters who play important role. The key in this Cotton Malone adventure is the Commonwealth, a secret organization whose power rests upon a letter of marque that authorized preying on the nations enemies as privateers that began against the British and Spanish during the American Revolution. The letter was in the form of an agreement that was to last in perpetuity as given by George Washington. All was well for the four families that made up the Commonwealth until Andrew Jackson stole the proof of the letter from Congressional journals that had used a cipher developed by Thomas Jefferson to unlock evidence that the Commonwealth acted legally and could never be prosecuted. Interestingly, other presidents tried to stand up to these privateers, men like Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy, all were assassinated. From this historical background Berry formulates his narrative, a story that consists of shifting alliances among the characters, and constant switching from scene to scene.

It seems that the Commonwealth, which is dominated by Quentin Hale whose great, great grandfather received the original letter from Washington in 1793 is being prosecuted by the Justice Department for numerous offenses that include hiding over a billion dollars in offshore accounts, and running into trouble with the CIA because of its financial machinations in Dubai. Berry has created an amazing array of characters each with their own agenda ranging from Andrea Carbonell, the head of the National Intelligence Agency who covets Stephanie Nell’s position as head of the Magellan Billet. Jonathan Wyatt, a former agent who lost his job because of Malone seeks revenge and seems in cahoots with Carbonell. Clifford Knox, Hale’s right-hand man who has no issue in killing for the Commonwealth. All seek the cipher created by Jefferson which would unlock information that each could use to achieve their goals, but the people who wanted to prosecute the Commonwealth wanted to keep the cipher hidden.

Malone and Vitt have been dispatched to save Nell who has disappeared and thwart efforts to use the cipher to end federal prosecution, in addition to deal with family issues involving the First Family. Berry has employed the Constitution, secret codes that would make Dan Brown envious, a firm grip on history, murder, assassination, pirates and a host of other tools to lay out his story line which in the end has created a thriller that should capture the imagination of the reader.
A Letter from Author Steve Berry

Cotton Malone is known for his overseas exploits. A former-Justice Department operative, who can't stay out of trouble, he's found adventures in all parts of Europe (The Templar Legacy, The Paris Vendetta), Central Asia (The Venetian Betrayal), Antarctica (The Charlemagne Pursuit), the Middle East (The Alexandria Link), and China (The Emperor's Tomb). But he's never had an American adventure. Until now.

The Jefferson Key was great fun to research. My wife Elizabeth and I traveled to New York City; Washington, D.C.; Bath, North Carolina; Monticello; and Richmond, Virginia. Monticello was particularly interesting since the terrific novelist, Katherine Neville--author of The Eight and The Fire--played host. Katherine serves on the estate's board of directors and she led us on a behind-the-scenes tour that helped formulate a number of scenes that would later appear in the book. We spent a wonderful day there, wandering the halls and staircases, snapping pictures, checking out every nook and cranny. In Richmond, we stayed at The Jefferson, a grand hotel that also makes an appearance in the story.

Bath, North Carolina was similarly intriguing. Three hundred years ago, Bath was a hotbed for Atlantic pirates, a bustling port and a ship building center. Its location, on a quiet inlet of the Pamlico River, not far from open ocean, made it ideal for both. And though it's now a sleepy village of about 300 residents, delving into its colonial and pre-colonial past was exciting. After all, pirates are fascinating--but they don't match the Hollywood stereotype. The real thing is even better, and The Jefferson Key deals with the real thing.

The research for this novel spanned 18 months, which is normal for my books. Along the way, we uncovered a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson; concocted a mystery for Andrew Jackson; and created a centuries-old document envisioned by the Founding Fathers themselves. It was fun exploring American history, especially the Constitution, which forms a huge part of this plot. With every book there's a challenge to describe the story in as few words as possible. For this one, we came up with this: Four United States presidents have been assassinated--in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963--each murder seemingly unrelated. But what if those presidents were all killed for the same reason--a clause in the United States Constitution, contained within Article 1, Section 8--that would shock Americans.
Got you interested?

I hope so.
Enjoy the Jefferson Key.
Profile Image for Melodie.
1,277 reviews65 followers
July 7, 2011
Excellent read, but it was a bit difficult keeping all the players straight. The POV kept changing, sometimes as often as every paragraph. Really enjoyed the storyline and all the backstabbing! I hadn't visited with Cotton Malone since THE ALEXANDRIA LINK, and really shouldn't stay away so long.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,062 reviews200 followers
May 7, 2011
Cotton Malone has taken me on some exciting adventures from the secrets of the Alexandria Library, to a lost fortune of Napoleon's and to an undiscovered tomb of terra cotta warriors in China. This time there are no visits to his bookstore in Denmark because the action takes place in America. The plots involves American pirates, the link between the four presidents assassinated while in office and missing pages from the "Congressional Reacord".
There are a lot of people involved in this book. There are a group of pirates, a security agency, a fired agent from the Magellen Billet, Malone and the U.S. President all searching for the missing pages. There were so many people that I kept confusing the character names and had a hard time, for some reason, keeping the quartermaster and the captain's names straight. Other than that, it was an easy read.
There is even a bit of American History thrown in. I enjoyed reading about the attempted assassination of President Andrew Jackskon and how Davy Crockett came to help him. How can you not love that?

Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews255 followers
September 22, 2020

Libraries are awesome! This is one of the series that I can read via library loans. As always, interesting mix of history and closer to home politics were woven into this story. I find most of the Cotton Malone stories to be either starts well and ends on a neutral tone or slow build with better pacing towards the end. I have yet to read one where it's well paced from start to finish.
231 reviews
November 1, 2014
Mr. Berry was recommended to me. I like conspiracy books, I enjoyed reading The DaVinci Code and so I assumed I'd enjoy this one as well.

Not at all.

The first 30 pages were intense. But then the book turned into a mish-mosh of jumbled scenes

Positives: The only positive of this book, in my opinion, was I liked the premise of the book. Definitely interesting. But the premise was the only good thing.


1) Too many--and I mean WAY too many--main characters. There was not really one protagonist but rather about 8. And it's hard to keep track of: Cotton, Nelle, Carbonell, Cassiopeia, Quentin, Hale, Wyatt, Carver, Davis, Daniels. People are constantly double-crossing, triple crossing and quadruple crossing each other so much it becomes virtually impossible to keep track of who is working with whom. People are always pulling guns on each other. And to make this even more confusing, every once in a while, after referring to a character by only his last name for 250 pages, suddenly he switches to a first name.
Wyatt....Wyatt....Wyatt....Wyatt...Wyatt....Jonathan. Huh??? Oh, yea. Wyatt's first name is Jonathan.

2) No character development. None. Nada. Zip. In spite of there being many characters, I did not connect with a single one of them. I felt nothing for any of them. They all seemed carbon copies of each other. I got to a point where I didn't care who lives or who dies.

3) Writing style. I don't mind a multi-faceted plot. As a matter of fact, I like those types of books. But this was just too extreme. I have no issues with there being 2 or 3 different scenes in one chapter. But Mr Berry hops back and forth so much, it was making me dizzy. To write one scene that was 2 paragraphs, then skip to another scene that was 1 paragraph, then a third scene that was perhaps 2 sentences, then back to another scene which was 6 lines...it was too much.

I did read this entire novel, all 508 pages. And I'm sorry I did. By the time I got to page 200, I didn't care. But I hate to start a book and not finish. And since I was almost half way there, I kept going. But honestly, by the last 30 pages, after reading 480 pages and now coming to the finale, I just skimmed the last 3 chapters. By this point, I didn't give a rat's you-know-what
Maybe Mr Berry is a good author and this was his one bad novel. But I will not be reading any of his work again
129 reviews5 followers
May 14, 2011
I was excited to receive and review this book. The cover was a hook and I was interested as I have read another book by Mr. Berry and it was great.

1) My advanced edition had three blurbs from authors David Baldacci, Vince Flynn and Brad Meltzer. I have read everything they have written and they raved about this book so I was ready to start.

2) The opening was interesting and hooked me. It had everything you would need. Two assassination attempts on President's, letters of Marque, and a cipher. The first few pages were good.

3) As the novel continues the backstory is explained both in past and present tense. I thought this was good as well. It helps give depth to the story. However, it was here that my attention started to wander. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I wasn't riveted.

4) About midway through the book I lost interest. I struggled to keep going. If this book hadn't been free, except for a requirement for this review, I would have moved on to the latest Dan Brown book I just got. As I continued, I attempted to figure out what was causing the problem.

5) With about 100 pages to go I figured it out. Too many quick cuts in the story. The story be in one location and then cut to another character somewhere else, and then cut to another, and then another. Now I realize every book does this, but this work did it faster then any book I have read in awhile. Sometimes there were only a few sentences and then we were off to another location.

6) The hook was great, the backstory was solid, the characters were reasonable. Quick cuts killed this book for me.
Profile Image for Emerald.
334 reviews41 followers
August 14, 2019
What an exciting tale all based on historical fact regarding pirates of the USA created by letters of marque issued by Congress and President Washington and believe it or not the US Constitution. England, France, and even Spain had their own pirates as well.

American didn't sign the treaty when piracy was outlawed by many countries back in the 18th century. The United States nor France signed the treaty. Spain and Great Britain did. Which means according to our Constitution, letters of marque can be issued to this day. According to the author this was heavily discussed after 9-11.

Mr. Berry used these factual historic details to create an exciting conspiracy based on historic documents that still are viewable today. Once again, another edge of your seat read.
Profile Image for Stacy Bearse.
770 reviews5 followers
May 24, 2018
This is an entertaining novel, but not as sophisticated or ground-breaking as the six prior books in the Cotton Malone series. Author Steve Berry shifts his background from Europe to the U.S. and Nova Scotia. The characters are familiar to those who have read Berry's earlier books, but so are the chases and fight scenes. An author writing a multi-book series faces the challenge of maintaining continuity while continuing to create new and imaginative stories. I'll take a break before I plow through the next book in the series ("The King's Deception").
Profile Image for itchy.
1,634 reviews25 followers
June 7, 2019
no dossier, eh?

yo ho ho and a bottle of rum;
i kept expecting for some pieces of eight to turn up

p78: kennedy's protection was waved off for political reasons.

p106: her right hand held a revolver.
p107: he noticed that her weapon was sound-suppressed.

p180: the front door slowly opened and a dark formed stepped inside.

p240: she was visibly upset at the site of the missing wheel.

p265: "...if we had, we would taken preventive measures."

p265: "i'd say that should be tops on your list," daniels said.

p297: he noticed a staircase that right-angled upward.

p398: cassiopeia heard the distance tap of gunfire.
Profile Image for Belle Ami.
Author 26 books250 followers
February 17, 2020
The Jefferson Key is a quick-paced thriller, filled with short chapters that end with cliffhangers forcing the reader to turn the page. The book is beautifully interwoven with real American history that gives this “Mister Toad’s Wild Ride” intriguing credence and an enjoyable relatability to those of us who love to learn a little something when we read.
It’s hard to go wrong with a superman hero, Cotton Malone, his kick-ass love interest, Cassiopeia Vitt who holds her own when trouble comes to a call, and a bad guy, Quentin Hale, a pirate/privateer who believes he is morally right and leads a modern swashbuckling team of criminals whose roots go back to the American Revolution, aptly named "The Commonwealth". Not to mention an ex-CIA agent adversary, Jonathan Wyatt, who is ofttimes appealing and keeps the reader cheering he won’t be done in and make an appearance in a future book.
Enjoy this action-packed thriller, I did.
Profile Image for Lisa Johnson.
2,575 reviews37 followers
September 27, 2017
Title: The Jefferson Key
Author: Steve Berry
Pages: 480
Year: 2011
Publisher: Ballantine Books
My rating 5 out of 5 stars.
Each book I read of Steve Berry’s is for me a lesson in the nuance of historical events and people. While the book is a work of fiction, at the end he kindly separates the facts from the fiction of his work. I am constantly amazed at the number of events that have escaped my notice or memory that make the novels all the more captivating to me from start to finish.
Cotton Malone reappears here to help locate his boss Stephanie and hopefully take down a rogue intelligence boss who is using her power for her own self-advancement. On top of this situation, the current U.S. President must deal with what is known as the Commonwealth, an organization that has existed from over 150 years and consider themselves beyond the reach of the law. Yet, one President put a kink in the Commonwealth’s dreams when a cipher was created and considered unbreakable. However, two pages of the Commonwealth’s document is missing and if they are found before the good guys get a hold of them, these pirates will be unstoppable.
What seems like unlinked presidential assassinations may not be true and what else may the Commonwealth have done or is doing to undermine the Constitution? Steve Berry’s book is compelling reading from the beginning. The tension is constantly climbing, reaching an unprecedented height near the end that will keep readers on the edge of their seat and up late at night reading! If you love a really good book to get lost in for a while, look no further because Steve Berry gives readers what they want and more!
Profile Image for Kim.
401 reviews182 followers
September 12, 2011
The latest in the Cotton Malone series, in this one Steve Berry has taken a slight departure from the norm and, to me, not for the better.

For the first time in the series the book is set wholly in the USA. I don't have an issue with this as, being an Australian, the US is as foreign as Europe or Asia. The locations were well researched although it would have been nice to have more interesting ones. Monticello was good as was Pamlico Sound and the treasure resting place which I won't give away. Other than that it was just hotels and normal cities. Nothing really exciting. And there needed to be more about the treasure place.

This book was also pretty confusing for the most part. Lots of different government agencies and villains and good guys all in a jumbled heap. It would have been better to trim them back a bit.

There was also a lot less history in this one than in previous books. It really wasn't about the treasure this time, more about the people. If I wanted that I'd read a drama. I read these books for the history and treasure.

In all this is not Steve Berry's best work and hopefully his next one will be back to his older levels.
Profile Image for Jim.
187 reviews4 followers
November 4, 2011
As with previous Cotton Malone outings by Berry, this one does a nice job of blending fact and fiction in an interesting thriller. Also like previous outings (and many thrillers in general), the reader has to accept certain unrealistic rules and stereotypes, including good guys who are expert marksmen while the bad guys can't hit the side of a barn, bad guys who have a chance to simply shoot and kill good guys but don't (for whatever reason), and government good guy types who don't seem to be constrained by silly things like the law, etc. But if you can get past that (and I love thrillers even as I roll my eyes on a regular basis), you should find something to appreciate in this one. And at the end of the day, the good guys win out, as usual, so it has that going for it, as well. As for the specifics, I give this one high marks for its premise, characters (if a bit one-dimensional) and pacing and low marks for character development and dialogue. And as with previous entries in the series, it is the way that historical facts are incorporated into things that makes it better than the average thriller out there.
2 reviews
September 9, 2011
The premise of Cotton Malone investigating a possible conspiracy in our American history had me wanting to read this book as soon as it was released. Previous novels in the Cotton series were fantastic and I was going into this without any care in the world only to find myself disappointed in the long run. I was definitely drawn into the book at the beginning but then was thrown in as many different directions as possible. From dealing with the President one moment to quickly being shifted to controversies within the upper echelon of the commonwealth, it felt as if the story was pulled in a variety of story lines more often then it should have. The action at the end was well written but lacked a more heightened confrontation between Wyatt and Malone. The years of hatred had been built up in the book at various times but then just fizzled out when the two came face to face. All in all, another fine story by Steve Berry that just could have been so much more if the main focal points had been centralized rather than branching off in a wide variety of direction.
Profile Image for Dlora.
1,553 reviews
September 27, 2012
This is one of those political thrillers with chases and clues and spies and secrets. However, I was annoyed throughout by the narration changing so quickly from location and character--several story lines all playing at the same time that eventually coalesce but not until the end. Was it supposed to heighten suspense? Every time a climax or key turning point was reached, the story changed settings. And I mean like every five pages. You get used to it, but I didn't like it. I found the history of Letters of Marque and Reprisal and privateers interesting. The story supposes that a powerful, secret group of "pirates" has existed and thrived since the beginnings of America, outside the law but patriotic in their own lights, and only assassinating US presidents when they actively oppose them. Good secret agents and bad secret agents, the interplay of powerful government secret services, and the face off between the current American president and the Privateers makes for a hopping storyline.
Profile Image for David Lucero.
Author 5 books187 followers
May 31, 2013
Steve Berry takes the reader on another thrilling ride! His character Cotton Malone finds himself inadvertently thwarting a presidential assassination, and we get new insight into his relationship with Ms. Vitt. The reader learns more about the private life of President Danny Daniels, and the strain of being in politics. Cotton comes up against the Commonwealth, a group of pirates who believe privateering should be legalized, but need a historical document hidden by the late President Andrew Jackson. Along the way Cotton battles an ambitious woman who wants Stephanie Nelle's job, and a former Magellan Billet agent who has a grudge with Cotton. I see this character as a good return in future Berry novels. Mr. Berry does his research and his writing is as usual, very good! I've read all of the adventures of Cotton Malone and look forward to his next book.

David Lucero, author
Profile Image for Shannon.
958 reviews29 followers
November 4, 2016
Didn't end up finishing this one, just skimmed the last half since it was so boring. So many gun fights that have no purpose, so many flashbacks when there are way better ways to get info out, far too many narrators who were all written as if they were the same person so I couldn't tell them apart, and one of the coolest topics (pirates) turned into a really boring book about politics. When I first read the description of this, I thought it sounded like it might be the best book in the series yet, but it seemed almost like the description was for another book entirely. I even liked The Emperor's Tomb more than this, and that's saying something.
Profile Image for Kim.
137 reviews8 followers
May 31, 2011
This book was definitely different than previous Cotton Malone books, in that it takes place in the United States. I like it just as much if not more than the previous books. I think that Steve Berry has taken Cotton in a different direction in this book and it works! Stephanie Nelle is not as evident and while I miss Henrik Thorvaldsen, his absence is not noticeable.

This book is a quick, quick summer read - perfect for traveling or the beach. The action is fast paced and is happening simultaneously in at least two locales at once. Lots of fun!
Profile Image for Kathryn.
142 reviews
May 31, 2011
This is the first Steve Berry book I have read and I am definitely hooked! This book is so fast paced and often has action happening in two or more locations at once. I love Casseopeia and Cotton - they make a great couple and one thing I love about Steve Berry is no gratuitous sex! That would definitely spoil it for me.

Put this on your "to-read" list for summer and add some more Steve Berry books. You will love them.
Profile Image for Tim Vessels.
1 review
February 26, 2018
If I read a 500+ book in one week, it’s got to be good. Near the beginning there were several characters that which got a bit confusing but it all came together masterfully. Gripping story!
Profile Image for Sabrina.
420 reviews13 followers
September 10, 2018
What a mess, this book needs a lot of editing to make it cohesive. It's like someone cut up the pages, tossed them in the air and picked them up and bound it all up for this book. It also isn't really what is advertised on the back. Women in this book are pretty in appearance but portrayed as inept cannon fodder except for the villainess. The pace is nonstop and unbelievable and just gets wilder and wilder. Also the government is blind, deaf and dumb, so is society. The pov shifts (there are WAY too many main characters and they have similar names) from page to page, paragraph to paragraph and even every other two sentences without any connections, lead-in, or relation to what just happened or was said just a sentence or two before. It gets confusing and is very annoying since the story, plot or pov gets jumbled. There is zero character development and the depth of the characters is as shallow as a tablespoon, they only have one feeling/emotion and their thinking is so single minded I am surprised they know what's happening around them at all. Also lots of talk/terms of a ship when there isn't one involved except briefly at the beginning and end of the story. A few scenes of graphic torture thrown in for shock value that don't need to be there at all.

Cotton Malone is summoned to a hotel room while on vacation with his girlfriend Cassiopeia by a former boss. When he gets there he stops the assassination President Danny Daniels and gets framed for it. But he knows the president who doesn't believe him guilty and points him in the direction of the real culprits. A modern day band of pirates who are angry that the power their families have abused for centuries is coming to an end and they are going to finally be punished for the abuse. There are many agencies that all have some kind of stake in this and they are all double-crossing and killing on another (in large quantities at an alarming pace that no one seems to care about) in a race to figure out a cipher that Thomas Jefferson used that can make the pirates invincible because of very broad language of the constitution.
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