by Steve Berry
Series: Cotton Malone #8
Genres: Suspense Thriller
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Cotton Malone and his fifteen-year-old son, Gary, are headed to Europe. As a favor to his former boss at the Justice Department, Malone agrees to escort a teenage fugitive back to England. But after he is greeted at gunpoint in London, both the fugitive and Gary disappear, and Malone learns that he’s stumbled into a high-stakes diplomatic showdown—an international incident fueled by geopolitical gamesmanship and shocking Tudor secrets. At its heart is the Libyan terrorist convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103, who is set to be released by Scottish authorities for “humanitarian reasons.” Outraged American government objects, but nothing can persuade the British to intervene. Except, perhaps, Operation King’s Deception. Run by the CIA, the operation aims to solve a centuries-old mystery, one that could rock Great Britain to its royal foundations. Blake Antrim, the CIA operative in charge of King’s Deception, is hunting for the spark that could rekindle a most dangerous fire, the one thing that every Irish national has sought for generations: a legal reason why the English must leave Northern Ireland. The answer is a long-buried secret that calls into question the legitimacy of the entire forty-five-year reign of Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, who completed the conquest of Ireland and seized much of its land. But Antrim also has a more personal agenda, a twisted game of revenge in which Gary is a pawn. With assassins, traitors, spies, and dangerous disciples of a secret society closing in, Malone is caught in a lethal bind. To save Gary he must play one treacherous player against another—and only by uncovering the incredible truth can he hope to prevent the shattering consequences of the King’s Deception.
I love suspense thrillers and find myself wrapped up in the secrets, agencies, secret societies and the quest to unearth the truth, so I was excited to read The King’s Deception by Steve Berry. While this is the eighth book in the Cotton Malone series, it can be read as a standalone. Filled with political intrigue and Tudor secrets this tale kept me on edge. Three-word review: suspenseful, riveting and action-packed.
The tale begins as Cotton Malone sits down with his ex-wife and shares a story about events that occurred when he and their then fifteen-year-old son Gary traveled to Europe. Leaving out of Georgia, Malone, a retired Magellan Billet agent for the Department of Justice agrees to escort a teenage fugitive back to London. When they arrive, British operatives meet them but things quickly go awry. Gary and the fugitive go missing and Malone realizes he is in the middle of a diplomatic showdown regarding the release of a Libyan terrorist and it somehow revolves around Tudor secrets. The story that unfolds kept me flipping the pages and completely enthralled.
Cotton Malone is a likable character and it is easy to see why he was a highly successful and admired member of the Magellan Billet. He is level-headed, quick thinking and is able to see the whole picture in the game of chess he finds himself thrust into. His son Gary is clever, questions everything and has a lot of baggage to deal with for one so young. Ian, the young fugitive is a pick-pocket who lives on the streets of London. He loves to read and often sleeps in Mary’s bookshop. He has been on the run ever since he witnessed a murder and picked the pocket of the dead man. He is smart, comes up with plans and added to the overall intrigue. Blake Antrim is a CIA operative in charge of the operation, “King’s Deception” and I quite loathe this vile man. His movements in London have the CIA and MI6 involved as one work to reveal a secret and the other works to bury it. Kathleen is a SOCA (Serious Organized Crime Agency) officer currently on suspension who is called in by Thomas Matthews the head of MI6. She is a real firecracker and I enjoyed her role in the events that unfolded. Miss Mary and her twin sister both offer Malone invaluable knowledge and added to the tale.
The best formula for a suspense thriller is when the author weaves his tale around documented facts, writings, and real historical characters and events. Berry tweaked very few facts and created a tale that felt plausible right down to the present day reasons Britain wants to keep this secret from being revealed. I am quite fascinated by the Tudor period and have read many books pertaining to this period; both fictional and non-fictional. Queen Elizabeth I has always intrigued me, so seeing her and Robert Cecil, King Henry the VIII and more held me completely captive. The author brought the present day setting to life, as he weaved in the history of the places we visited making him a delightful tour guide. I had a panoramic view of the past and present, all while caught up in this brilliantly paced and action-packed thriller. I was impressed and felt the tale was tight, the characters fleshed out and the secrets, along with the political game that was afoot to be believable. Fans of Dan Brown will be delighted with The King’s Deception.
Fans of suspense thrillers, conspiracies and the Tudor period in history will want to grab a copy of The King’s Deception. I enjoyed this so much that I want to go back and visit the earlier books in this series and will definitely pick up one of Berry’s books again.