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The Bishop's Pawn

Review

The Bishop's Pawn

Cotton Malone does not die in THE BISHOP’S PAWN. Why am I being so shamelessly bold, you may ask? After 12 outstanding thrillers in this series, author Steve Berry takes us back in time --- literally --- with the release of his latest novel.

THE BISHOP'S PAWN is an unexpected prequel to all the other works in the series. Loyal fans like myself who have been there from the very start will relish the opportunity to catch a young and somewhat less worldly version of their favorite bookstore owner/international agent and future Justice Department agent, Cotton Malone. For those who enjoy those moments of sexual tension, it is also the first meeting between Malone and Justice Department lawyer Stephanie Nelle.

The book’s historical context is not an ancient religious artifact or a hidden treasure. Instead, we are taken back to that fateful day of April 4, 1968 and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As we quickly approach the 50th anniversary, we get to see Berry revisit it with some eye-opening information --- and readers may never think of this world-shaping event in the same way again.

"THE BISHOP'S PAWN is Steve Berry at the top of his game once again, delving into material that seems just as credible now as it was 50 years ago. There is so much to like about this novel, especially the chance to watch a young Cotton Malone do his thing."

In the Writer's Note at the end of the novel, Berry admits that the idea for THE BISHOP'S PAWN had been swirling around for years, but he knew that the book would not be released until the 50th anniversary. It is also the first time in a Steve Berry novel that the entire story is told from one character’s perspective: Cotton Malone. Things get kicked off properly with a prophetic biblical quote from Genesis 37:19-20: “They said one to another, behold here cometh the dreamer, let us slay him and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”

We jump back in time 18 years from the present day. Young Navy lawyer Cotton Malone is in prison for helping out a friend. Looking at a couple of years of hard time, he finds himself being released from his concrete jail cell to meet a tough and determined woman who gets him sprung and introduces herself as Stephanie Nelle. Nelle somehow knows that Malone is the right man for a job locating an extremely rare coin that may be in the clutches of a radical FBI offshoot cadre. This coin is alleged to be the most valuable of its kind in the world, and also may have been used as a form of payment in return for top-secret files that hold the truth behind the MLK assassination.

Malone soon finds himself tag-teaming with a cop named Coleen Perry. Perry may have the sacred Double Eagle coin in her possession, but that's not the most interesting thing about her. Her father is the Rev. Benjamin Foster, who was in the inner sanctum of MLK's advisors and was present on that illustrious day in Memphis. A black case that Malone rescued from an underwater salvage contains the sought-after MLK files, and he notices the words “Bishop’s Pawn” on the front of one folder. When Malone meets the Rev. Foster, he finds that the man seems to be worried and desperate. For some reason, the Reverend takes an intense liking to Malone and believes he is the only person capable of allowing him to finally unburden the secrets that have torn him apart since MLK’s death.

Eventually, Malone learns that the title on that file represented code names. MLK was “Bishop,” but it would be up to Malone to figure out who the “Pawn” was and what important role he or she would play in the events to come. Some of the novel’s best moments are not the heart-stopping action sequences or the constant peril in which Malone finds himself, but the actual reading of the secret files. Of course, we learn that MLK's killer, James Earl Ray, was just a patsy and, like the JFK assassination, may not have been the sole shooter. These files contain so much incredibly accurate information that it will be difficult to know where that fine line is between fact and the fiction Berry has created.

Could MLK's murder actually have been the result of the counter-intelligence endeavor program, or COINTELPRO? This group was allegedly at the beck and call of J. Edgar Hoover, and the Feds had a lot to gain from King's death. However, there are many other forces at play here, and I guarantee that you will not see all the incredible twists and turns coming. THE BISHOP'S PAWN is Steve Berry at the top of his game once again, delving into material that seems just as credible now as it was 50 years ago. There is so much to like about this novel, especially the chance to watch a young Cotton Malone do his thing. This is a book worth talking about with others, so please spread the word!

Reviewed by Ray Palen on March 22, 2018

The Bishop's Pawn
by Steve Berry

  • Publication Date: March 20, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250140226
  • ISBN-13: 9781250140227