Review: Father's mysterious death inspires a quest in Steve Berry's 'Charlemagne Pursuit'

In his first three Cotton Malone books, Georgia author Steve Berry has mined a lot of sacred territory: the lost library of Alexandria, Alexander the Great's tomb, the Knights Templar's treasure. This time Malone, a former U.S. Justice Department operative, sets forth on a more personal globe-trotting adventure after he receives classified information about his father's death on a U.S. sub more than 30 years ago.

Cotton, a Navy man like his father, is stunned to find out that his father perished on a sub in Antarctica's waters (instead of the Atlantic), and that the nature of the sub's mission is still top secret.

And this wouldn't be a typical treasure-sleuthing Berry book unless the elder Malone's death was entwined with previously unknown historical truths.

So, of course it is, as explained to Cotton by a pair of scheming, backstabbing sisters — Dorothea and Christl — who have their own interest in finding the lost sub. Their father, a German historian, joined the American crew purely for research purposes, seeking to uncover evidence of an advanced civilization that existed centuries before the ancient Egyptians.

Meanwhile an ambitious, all-or-nothing Navy admiral seeks to silence anyone with knowledge of the sub's demise.

In The Charlemagne Pursuit, Berry trades some (but definitely not all) of the flashy action of Cotton's previous exploits for character development, which meets with varying degrees of success. Fans will enjoy the exploration of Cotton's psyche and motivation. In similar fashion the author used The Venetian Betrayal to further define the cat-womanly, leather-clad Casseopia Vitt, one of Cotton's usual cohorts, who sadly receives only passing mention in The Charlemagne Pursuit.

Readers will have a harder time warming to Dorothea and Christl, a pair of truly unlikable sisters, who bring to mind other unredeemable female characters from the author's pre-Cotton Malone tales.

Jennifer DeCamp can be reached at jdecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8881.

The Charlemagne Pursuit

By Steve Berry

Ballantine,

509 pages, $26

Review: Father's mysterious death inspires a quest in Steve Berry's 'Charlemagne Pursuit' 02/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 7, 2009 3:30am]

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