Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry

The Lincoln Myth (Cotton Malone, Book #9)
by Steve Berry
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
2014 Ballantine Books
Hardcover Edition; 448 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-345-52657-1
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

In Utah, the fabled remains of Mormon pioneers whose nineteenth-century expedition across the desert met with a murderous end have been uncovered. In Washington, D.C., the official investigation of an international entrepreneur, an elder in the Mormon church, has sparked a political battle between the White House and a powerful United States senator. In Denmark, a Justice Department agent, missing in action, has fallen into the hands of a dangerous zealot—a man driven by divine visions to make a prophet’s words reality. And in a matter of a few short hours, Cotton Malone has gone from quietly selling books at his shop in Denmark to dodging bullets in a high-speed boat chase.

From the streets of Copenhagen to the catacombs of Salzburg to the rugged mountains of Utah, the grim specter of the Civil War looms as a dangerous conspiracy gathers power. Malone risks life, liberty, and his greatest love in a race for the truth about Abraham Lincoln—while the fate of the United States of America hangs in the balance.

My Thoughts
The Lincoln Myth is the ninth book in the Cotton Malone series, and this one focuses on Abraham Lincoln and the exploration of ideas behind the truth to the Civil War and the Mormons.  I have been following this author since his first novel, The Templar Legacy, was published, and it has been a true pleasure getting to know Malone and the variety of characters involved in the various novels.  I was definitely looking forward to this latest installment, wondering how a retired Cotton was going to get involved in yet another international incident.  Despite the enjoyable writing style and the historical lessons I received from this one, I have to admit that it was my least favourite of the novels in the series thus far.  

What I have always like about Steve Berry's books are the historical puzzles.  I have been fascinated by how he manages to put together complex ideas and uses them to create new thought patterns that make you think, So it could have played out this way, or, I never thought about it that way.  And naturally, as I've said so many times before, I love secrets.  Throw that word around in a blurb and combine it with the word 'historical' or 'ancient' and you've got me hooked.  And these books are always about the secrets that have been kept hidden for however many centuries. In this one, I learned quite a bit of history about the Mormons, an area of history with which I am not very familiar, and I am ashamed to admit I have been to Utah without realizing this historical significance, and I like to learn.  After visiting Gettysberg, I have also developed a fascination for anything to do with Abraham Lincoln, so I did find the information in this novel quite interesting.  As a Canadian, we don't learn a lot about the Constitution in our history classes, so I liked reading about a lot of this.  I did wonder though, if the book would have had a similar impact on someone who was American, and already familiar with the history, and if it would be rather boring to them.  Not sure what to think about that.

As always, I enjoy Cotton and his quick switches from easy-going bookseller to deadly hitman.  Although retired, he seems to spend an awful lot of time helping out the Justice Department and it makes me wonder how long Steve Berry can come up with plausible excuses to use a retired person to do a job that I'm sure active agents can do as well.  That being said, I've always found Malone's world to be rather engrossing, and downright believable, and this novel was no different.  My problem had to do with Cassiopeia Vitt.  She has been featured in several previous novels so I had been familiar with her personality and in this one, she was...different.  I can't quite put my finger on it but I didn't particularly like her very much.  You just don't change that drastically from one book to another and I couldn't quite buy into it, which soured the plot for me somewhat.  I am wondering if the author just couldn't figure out how to create some drama in the novel and this was the best he could come up with, but I didn't like it and I didn't like how things ended either.  And it doesn't have anything to do with cliffhangers or other such things, it just rang false in my eyes.  

One of the interesting things that did cross my mind, and wouldn't quite leave it after finishing the novel, is the whole concept of secession.  I know this idea has caused a furor in the United States with regards to Texas and some comments made by Rick Perry.  And I know there are some issues in Northern California with a couple of counties wanting to form a 51st state.  The big argument in this novel is whether the Founding Fathers included a 'perpetual union' at the signing of the Constitution that prevents any state from seceding from the union.  Historians have debated this issue for many years, and I understand that the author does take some historical freedoms when creating the novel, but the idea is to force the reader to think about the possibilities about what could happen if secession actually occurred.  In Canada, this is a concept that does come up quite regularly with the Quebec separatist issue so it was interesting to read about the American side of things.

The Lincoln Myth was an interesting novel in terms of historical facts and puzzles.  I enjoyed learning more about Abraham Lincoln and some of the reasons for the Civil War.  As always, the story flowed along nicely, with an interesting plot line that definitely has relevance to many issues  we are facing.  I did have issues with some of characters, and there were times when I felt the plot dragged on, as interesting as it was.  It was not your typical Malone novel in that the usual pile up of dead bodies, the escapes, and daring rescues were not evident in this novel, almost to the point where there was too much talk and not enough action.  I also felt like the closure was somewhat lacking.  Even with all of these issues, I am still curious enough about Malone and what trouble he could possibly get himself into next to want to read the next book in this series.  Hopefully, Cassiopeia will hit her head or something and go back to normal as the one in this novel, I didn't particularly like, and I want her back.


  1. Excellent review, Stephanie.

    I'll have to look at some of his earlier work.

    1. I have definitely enjoyed his earlier work. I also enjoyed this one, but it was lacking that something that defined his earlier novels, if you know what I mean.