Sunday, July 21, 2013

THE KING'S DECEPTION by Steve Berry (Books and Wine #2)

THE KING'S DECEPTION (Cotton Malone #8)
Author: Steve Berry
Hardcover: 409 pages
Published June 11, 2013 by Ballantine Books
Genre: thriller, suspense, mystery, international thriller, contemporary novel, historical fiction
Rating: 5 plus out of 5 stars

"She went to her grave with her secret inviolate" 
Cover jacket blurb - 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.” An 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. (Cover jacket blurb)

Elizabeth I, Darnley Portrait, c. 1575
My review - Who says that history cannot be entertaining? Historical anomalies actually are among the most intriguing topics: popular myths and urban legends fire our imagination more than tomes and tomes of official history will ever do. I've always been fascinated by the argument that Elizabeth I of England might have been the real author of plays and tragedies attributed to obscure commoner (and most likely illiterate) William Shakespeare. Another interesting theory about the real identity of The Virgin Queen has recently surfaced and, although regarded as a preposterous curiosity, it could shake the British Crown to its foundations if proved to be true.
Multiple clues hinting at a fraud were dropped during her longevous kingdom and they have been uncovered by scholars, writers, even lawyers, over the course of five centuries (the Bisley Boy legend, Famous Imposters by Bram Stoker, a group of Irish Nationalist lawyers). None of those clues led to an irrefutable evidence, an evidence that may remain buried forever in a tomb at Westminster Abbey. 
Queen of England, France and Ireland, the 'iron fist ruler' provided her kingdom with stability and wealth for an exceptionally long time (1558-1603). Spinster and childless, she didn't possess any grace or beauty. Marriage proposals (and there were many) were all turned down, no doctor was ever allowed to examine her body when she was ill, and no autopsy was authorized and performed at her death. Bad-tempered and prone to cursing, she was depicted as commanding and authoritative as a man. And she might have been one.
Elen Mirrer in 'Elizabeth I' (HBO tv drama)
One of the best kept secrets in history, and the grave repercussions this secret may have on the United Kingdom's fate, lay at the heart of Steve Berry's conspiracy thriller. The King's Deception swept me away with its non-stop action, flawless writing, and fleshed-out characters. Cotton Malone's multi-layered arc (ex US Department of Justice, newly divorcee and antique books amateur) unfolds throughout eight novels, yet his charismatic personality and back story are fully delineated, portraying him not only as a highly regarded intelligence agent, but also as a flawed man with a failed marriage on his belt and all the post-divorce challenges a father has to face in order to strengthen his bond with a teenage son. The introduction of two adolescent characters (Cotton's son Gary and street urchin Ian) allows the author to enrich the dramatic texture of his action-driven plot with a good insight into the emotional world of kids coming from dysfunctional families. Kudos to Berry for his ability to incorporate historical references and architectural descriptions in his narration, without breaking momentum and without disrupting the action flow with anti-climactic changes of pace. Keeping the chapters short and ricocheting from scene to scene as more frequently as we approach the final pages of the book, Berry managed to enhance the suspense factor: intrigues, shifting loyalties, a rich cast of players, a high-octane opening chapter and a relentless escalation of pulse-pounding action, all played out in an effortless and adrenaline-spiking fashion. Berry's 'deception' excelled where Brown's 'inferno' fell short. Clever, solid, and extremely well-crafted. From now on Steve Berry's novels will be on my 'must-read' shelf.

*Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in return of an unbiased and fair review



For this complex and engrossing thriller I have decided to upgrade my wine suggestion to a Scottish single malt with a regal name. The Royal Lochnagar 12 year old, a scotch whiskey with a royal connection, is legendary for his classic and mellow flavor. With upfront flavors of earth, freshly cut grass, and spice, light notes of  sandalwood and hay, it became a favorite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during their visits to their Scottish estate at Balmoral. Great on ice or with a splash of water, you will find it irresistible in a cocktail of bold, fruity flavors. Cheers!

BLOOD & SAND Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients for 1 serving:
3/4 oz scotch whiskey
3/4 oz rosso vermouth  
1/4 oz cherry brandy
1 1/2 oz orange juice

Shake over ice cubes, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and serve.

Steve Berry is the New York Times bestselling author of the Cotton Malone series featuring The Jefferson Key, The Emperor's Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, and The Templar Legacy. He also has three stand-alone thrillers: The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room (and two e-book original short stories, The Balkan Escape and The Devil's Gold). Silver Bullet Award winning author, he has 12 million books in print, which have been translated into 40 languages and sold in 51 countries. He's also an accomplished instructor, having taught writing to audiences across the globe. When Steve's not writing, you can find him either on a beach, a golf course, or traveling (discovering more things lost) and thinking of the next novel. He lives in the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida. Steve and his wife Elizabeth have also started a foundation, History Matters, dedicated to aiding the preservation of our heritage. To know more about him, please visit his website 



  1. Maryellen PallowJuly 22, 2013 at 2:26 AM

    Brilliant review!

    1. Thsnk you, Maryellen! What an amazing book! Dan Brown's fans will love this one.

  2. Followed back. Love the review, and the wine comparison! ;)

    1. Thank you, Goldie!!! Enjoy the reviews. I look forward to your newsfeed :)

  3. Lovely review, although I do feel Berry is much better, and certainly more accomplished than Dan Brown. Just on the topic of Shakespeare not being the real deal: I was listening to an interview Berry had with the Book Report show (they have the interview in their archive section on their website bookreportradio dotcom), and it revealed that Berry had in fact written a short story "The Tudor Plot" as an introduction of sorts to this latest novel. I haven't read it but I do believe it touches heavily on the theory of Shakespeare not being the man we think he is.

    1. Hi Ambrose :) I agree with you about Berry being leagues above Brown, with all the due respect for Brown. I read Inferno just before The King's Deception, so I couldn't hold myself from making a comparison. Thank you for the tips about the interview and The Tudor Plot. I will check them out. Very kind of you to stop by, read my review and comment :)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Did you see Berry's Live Chat on the Booktrib YouTube Channel? I was so impressed with him...great energy and focus. He's awesome!

  5. Mina: You won a copy of The Last Camellia on my blog's book giveaway contest. I sent you an email. Can you reply by July 29?

    1. What an awesome way to start my day! Thank you so much, Harvee. I'll be in touch with details.