Review: The Alexandria Link (Cotton Malone #2) by Steve Berry

Review: The Alexandria Link (Cotton Malone #2) by Steve BerryThe Alexandria Link by Steve Berry
Series: Cotton Malone #2
Published by Random House LLC on 2007-02-06
Pages: 462
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BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Steve Berry’s The Columbus Affair and a Cotton Malone dossier. Cotton Malone retired from the high-risk world of elite operatives for the U.S. Justice Department to lead the low-key life of a rare-book dealer. But his quiet existence is shattered when he receives an anonymous e-mail: “You have something I want. You’ re the only person on earth who knows where to find it. Go get it. You have 72 hours. If I don’t hear from you, you will be childless.” His horrified ex-wife confirms that the threat is real: Their teenage son has been kidnapped. When Malone’s Copenhagen bookshop is burned to the ground, it becomes brutally clear that those responsible will stop at nothing to get what they want. And what they want is nothing less than the lost Library of Alexandria. A cradle of ideas–historical, philosophical, literary, scientific, and religious–the Library of Alexandria was unparalleled in the world. But fifteen hundred years ago, it vanished into the mists of myth and legend–its vast bounty of wisdom coveted ever since by scholars, fortune hunters, and those who believe its untold secrets hold the key to ultimate power. Now a cartel of wealthy international moguls, bent on altering the course of history, is desperate to breach the library’s hallowed halls–and only Malone possesses the information they need to succeed. At stake is an explosive ancient document with the potential not only to change the destiny of the Middle East but to shake the world’s three major religions to their very foundations. Pursued by a lethal mercenary, Malone crosses the globe in search of answers. His quest will lead him to England and Portugal, even to the highest levels of American government–and the shattering outcome, deep in the Sinai desert, will have worldwide repercussions.

I’m starting to think that Steve Berry is a megalomaniac. The more of his books that I read, the more I see his fascination with power and self-importance. I keep reading him because I expect his stories to get better. I like Cotton Malone, I really do. Thus, I go back.

With that being said, The Alexandria Link sounded promising. I’ve always been fascinated by its secrets. Is it still out there? Did any of it survive? However, what I realized about half way into the book is that it’s just another one of Berry’s attempts to destabilize religion. I normally wouldn’t have a problem with this, but THREE out of the five books that I’ve read has tried to destabilize religion in some way, shape, or form. It’s getting a bit old. I find myself saying, “Yeah, yeah, the Bible is flawed. We know that,” a bit too much with his books.

Religion Has Secrets

I once got de-friended on Facebook for saying that the Bible was a flawed historical document. Here’s what I mean: there are two ways of reading the bible – with faith in mind or as a historical document. There are those who can do both (I consider myself one of those people) but it is very difficult to reconcile faith-based readings with knowledge of the translation/printing history of the Bible. As a text (not as a holy book), the Bible is hugely flawed for a variety of reasons: translation and authorship being the two biggest offenders here.  My point is that Berry fairly accurately shows his readers that some of the problems associated with the Bible. He actually very succinctly discusses the translation problems associated with the Old Testament and the creation of Israel in the 1940s. What if we really did misinterpret Abraham and gave the Jews the wrong Holy Land? If only he had stopped there …

Berry then takes it a step further by creating a story centered around destabilizing the Middle East and starting a World War for profit. I know his books have to have that shock factor, but really? I can’t help but wonder what this man has against organized religion. Yes, it’s flawed. Yes, I’m skeptical too. But really, he needs a new topic. This “religion has secrets” phenomenon has been done before and Berry is just on the bandwagon.

Unbelievable Dialogue

As for the characters, Cotton is the same retired agent turned hero. This time, though, his ex-wife is with him. Their banter drove me crazy … which brings me to another negative point around the book: the dialogue. It was clunky and unbelievable. I found myself rolling my eyes at Cotton and Pam’s hatred for one another at the beginning of the book. When Cotton is alone, dialogue is fine. It seems as if Berry has trouble with the male/female dynamic. Although, banter between Stephanie and the heads of government totally works … so maybe it’s just the male/female dynamic after divorce. It seems to me like he doesn’t quite have a grip on how to convey pain and guilt in a believable manner.

The Good Stuff

So what did I like, you ask? There were moments where I forgot about all of the things I’m griping about and truly enjoyed reading. I like Stephanie and Cassiopeia’s story line. I’m a sucker for a government thriller. In fact, I’d would have rather like Berry to go that route instead of the path he did choose. I also liked the riddles and the quests. Seeing Cotton try and figure out the hero’s quest was pretty interesting. I did think they solved it a bit too quick. There weren’t enough real obstacles in his way … just men with guns. They’re easily taken care of.

Overall, the story is fun. It also gets you thinking. But, if you’ve read a lot of these “religion has secrets” novels like I have, you’ll find The Alexandria Link formulaic and pretty unremarkable.

two-stars

© 2012 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.