Who would have reasonably thought that at this point in Steve Berry’s career --- a dozen books and a bunch of e-published efforts --- that he would blow the doors off of all that has gone before and take his game to a whole new level? This is what he has done with THE KING’S DECEPTION, which will immensely please his core audience and should add an entire mob of new fans as well.
THE KING’S DECEPTION is part of the Cotton Malone canon, beginning and ending with a conversation between Malone and Pam, his ex-wife. Malone is coming clean, if you will, with an event that took place in London two years previously involving their teenage son, Gary, and himself. The Prologue presents the raising of the issue; the epilogue wraps things up. The 400-odd pages in between is Malone’s story, a complex, rollicking 40-hour ride through a very dangerous and wild weekend in London where the betrayals collide with current events and the deceptions of hundreds of years ago, resulting in an explosive finish that no one who reads it will forget.
"Prior to reading the book, Queen Elizabeth I had not crossed my mind since high school history class. Thanks to Berry, I am now fascinated by the character and plan on visiting at least some of his source material to achieve a better understanding of the life and times of one of history’s most enigmatic figures."
London was supposed to be a brief stopover for Malone and Gary on their way to Malone’s resident Copenhagen, where they were to spend Thanksgiving weekend together. But Malone reveals for the first time that he had agreed to escort a third party --- Ian Dunne, a teenage fugitive from justice --- back to London as a favor to his former boss in the Justice Department. The trio had barely deplaned in London, though, when both Ian and Gary are kidnapped.
The man responsible is Blake Antrim, a CIA agent for whom the abduction has a dual purpose. The Scottish government has implausibly elected to release the Libyan terrorist who was tried and convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103, over the vehement objections of the United States. The Scots will not be deterred from their course of action, and the British refuse to intervene. The US is diplomatically stymied. Antrim, however, believes that there is a secret, one that has lan hidden for hundreds of years, which, if revealed, could upend one of the most continuing contentious state of affairs in the world today: the English presence in Northern Ireland. The secret concerns the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who completed the conquest of Ireland and seized a sizable portion of that country on behalf of England.
Antrim believes that if the truth about Elizabeth I is revealed, it will have the potential to destroy the legitimacy of her actions during her entire reign, including her conquest of Ireland and the continuing English occupation of the North. Ian is the key to unlocking the secret, but what does Gary have to do with it? This is where, for Antrim, the professional becomes personal. Antrim has a huge grudge against Malone, and his actions are motivated as much by his desire to do Malone harm as they are by his mission, which in effect is to blackmail the English into bringing the force of diplomatic persuasion --- and maybe more --- to bear against the Scottish government. As Malone’s story proceeds, Pam learns how Malone saved his son, and arguably preserved the world order from a potentially catastrophic revelation.
Does this sound complex? It is. But Berry is a wonderful guide as always, interweaving fascinating bits of history into the narrative, which is subdivided into sections introduced by paintings of Queen Elizabeth I. Additionally, Berry’s fans will once again welcome the Writer’s Note, which reliably closes out THE KING’S DECEPTION, providing comments, footnotes and additional facts of historical interest to what has gone before. If that isn’t enough, please consider this: Prior to reading the book, Queen Elizabeth I had not crossed my mind since high school history class. Thanks to Berry, I am now fascinated by the character and plan on visiting at least some of his source material to achieve a better understanding of the life and times of one of history’s most enigmatic figures. I can’t give you a better endorsement for a book or an author.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 14, 2013