Anyone who has ever experienced that reverent rush when stepping into a library has no doubt mentally genuflected at the mention of the Library of Alexandria, a repository of knowledge containing over a half-million manuscripts that met an unknown fate over a millennium ago. Where did all that inventory go? The answer to this question is the prime motivation behind THE ALEXANDRIA LINK, Steve Berry's latest novel.
This is by far Berry's most ambitious work, incorporating a large and important cast that includes three governments, a powerful economic and political society known as The Order of the Golden Fleece, and Cotton Malone, introduced to readers in THE TEMPLAR LEGACY. It seems that Malone's retirement from government service to live out his years as a humble bookseller is not to be.
THE ALEXANDRIA LINK opens explosively with a confrontation between Malone and his ex-wife Pam, as their teenage son has just been kidnapped. This is followed by the sudden destruction of his bookstore, even as he is prodded to reveal a secret he has sworn he would never disclose. It has to do with the existence of the Library of Alexandria, thought to have been long destroyed, but instead has been preserved in a secret location. The library purportedly contains documentation conclusively demonstrating that a basic tenet of fact, which is the lynchpin of contemporary world politics, is false --- a revelation that, if made known, would cause an uproar not only among world powers but also among three major religions. Many want the documentation --- some to suppress it, others to use as leverage --- even as a de facto against one government is being planned from within.
Malone and Pam find themselves to be reluctant and unlikely allies as they race across continents and against time, following a series of enigmatic clues that may lead them to the library or to their deaths. Henrik Thorvaldsen, Malone's friend and patron, is there to help, as is Stephanie Nelle, Malone's former boss at the Justice Department. There are few others whom Malone can trust, however; as the body count rises around him, Malone finds that the currency in which he is dealing is not so much knowledge as betrayal. The fate of the world may well turn not only on what he will discover but also on what he will reveal.
Berry is at his absolute best here, incorporating elements of the thriller genre with classic mystery fare, and producing a provocative, enthralling novel that will captivate readers across all genres. Meticulously researched and exquisitely plotted, THE ALEXANDRIA LINK is a must read.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011