Between the Covers: Stories from My Bookcase

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry

Steve Berry is yet another author whose books are read by everyone in the family. Other titles from the author that I’ve also read are The Third Secret, The Templar Legacy and The Amber Room.

In The Jefferson Key, Berry weaves a conspiracy that links all 4 US presidential assassinations. In truth, all are unrelated. But Berry poses a believable story that shows how they could be connected. All masterminded by pirates. Pirates who call their organization the Commonwealth.

Photo Jul 15, 8 11 24 AM

In this novel Cotton Malone goes Stateside. He is called out of retirement by his old boss and friend from the Magellan Billet, one of many intelligence agencies of the US government. His girlfriend Cassiopeia Vitt plans a romantic time for them in New York after he takes care of business, but all is spoiled when Cotton finds himself in the position to stop an assassination attempt on the US President.

Although Cotton has retired from service and has chosen to live a quiet life in his bookshop in Europe, he is first an American. And an American intelligence covert operative. He couldn’t not do anything. He could not walk away.

But Berry didn’t open the book with that scene. Some historical reference came before it. This time, a foiled assassination attempt. There was no Cotton Malone to rescue the president, the president himself confronted his attacker. He also did more than that – he guaranteed that the people behind the attempt on his life would suffer. Oh they did. For more than a hundred years they suffered for it.

The Commonwealth is not an unruly bunch of fish-smelling pirates. They’re a very organized bunch actually, with a hierarchy and rules that they follow. They’re a very serious bunch. Very rich too. They don’t have to hide their gold in their ships. They need not limit their trade to the high seas. They invest and control legitimate corporations. But yes, they still do a lot pirating or as they call it privateering. No, it’s not about digital media piracy either. I can’t explain it myself, but you’d have to read the book to understand how they served the great United States in the wars they have won.

I love that Berry doesn’t just have a hero in Cotton, but he also has very strong women in this book. There’s the head of the Magellan Billet, Stephanie Nell. Cotton’s girlfriend who has a colorful history, Cassiopeia Vitt. And even the First Lady’s confidant, Shirley. Each woman has a story to tell. Each was able to show her unique strength.

Berry writes in a way that grips us. It was good how he was able to show us the story as it happened from two or even three perspectives. Simultaneously. He would switch from one voice to the other. It was almost like how they’d do it in movies splitting the screen to show two or more views of the same scene unfolding. Brilliant really.