Cotton Malone, Book 14
The nicest touch about many of Berry’s novels is the close attention paid to the historical setting of the book. He and his wife founded the group “History Matters” and are very involved in bringing to light the actual events occurring in world history.
“The Malta Exchange” features Cotton Malone and what is looking more and more like his protege, Luke Daniels, working on an assignment for the Magellan Billet a secret U.S. government organization. Luke is a new employee with the Billet while Cotton is retired after years of service with them. Cotton is on paid temporary assignment with them in the book The two are sent to Italy to search for papers missing since World War II which delineate an attempt by Winston Churchill to arrange a peace with Mussolini, the than Italian dictator, and which could very well rewrite history if brought to light,
The action in this story takes place during a time when the current Pope has died and a conclave of Cardinals of the Catholic Church has been called to the Vatican to decide upon a new Pope. Mr Berry includes a history of both the Church as well as the island of Malta as background to his novel. These sidebars have been setup as part and parcel of the search for the Churchill papers and, I believe, that they make a good story even better. The Church’s history as depicted, goes back to it’s beginnings and includes events during the reign of Constantine during the fourth century A.D. in which that king became instrumental in making the Church the world wide organization that it currently is. Malta’s history includes centuries of being the territory of one nation after another and beginning at least 5000 years ago as cave drawings show humans living there at that point in the past.
Two brothers have been plotting for years to elevate one of them to the Papacy at the appropriate time. Their scheming and the actual attempt at getting elected to the position via clandestine activities comprise much of the investigative activity of Malone and Daniels. By itself this attempt will draw in readers and with the addition of the well documented historical background make for a great novel.
I reiterate that I find the historical facts brought into Berry’s novels fascinating and bring out the the truism that the events of the past are not cut and dried. They are open to analysis and can be shown to influence events much more than normally thought. Readers can interpret these background explanations as helping to solve a mystery even if they do not enjoy the interjection of new facts in history as part of the book. I, personally, always await the next Steve Berry novel with a great deal of anticipation.
3/19 Paul Lane
THE MALTA EXCHANGE by Steve Berry. Minotaur Books (March 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1250140265. 416p.