Review: The Amber Room by Steve Berry

Review: The Amber Room by Steve BerryThe Amber Room by Steve Berry
Published by Random House LLC on 2007
Pages: 449
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The Amber Room is one of the greatest treasures ever made by man: an entire room forged of exquisite amber, from its four massive walls to its finely crafted furniture. But it is also the subject of one of history’s most intriguing mysteries. Originally commissioned in 1701 by Frederick I of Prussia, the Room was later perfected Tsarskoe Selo, the Russian imperial city. In 1941, German troops invaded the Soviet Union, looting everything in their wake and seizing the Amber Room. When the Allies began the bombing of Germany in August 1944, the Room was hidden. And despite the best efforts of treasure hunters and art collectors from around the world, it has never been seen again. Now, two powerful men have set their best operatives loose in pursuit, and the hunt has begun once more. . . . Life is good for Atlanta judge Rachel Cutler. She loves her job, loves her kids, and remains civil to her ex-husband, Paul. But everything changes when her father, a man who survived the horrors of World War II, dies under strange circumstances—and leaves behind clues to a secret he kept his entire life . . . a secret about something called the Amber Room. Desperate to know the truth about her father’s suspicious dealings, Rachel takes off for Germany, with Paul close behind. Shortly after arriving, they find themselves involved with a cast of shadowy characters who all claim to share their quest. But as they learn more about the history of the treasure they seek, Rachel and Paul realize they’re in way over their heads. Locked in a treacherous game with ruthless professional killers and embroiled in a treasure hunt of epic proportions, Rachel and Paul suddenly find themselves on a collision course with the forces of power, evil, and history itself. A brilliant adventure and a scintillating tale of intrigue, deception, art, and murder, The Amber Room is a classic tale of suspense—and the debut of a strong new voice in the world of the international thriller. From the Hardcover edition.

I enjoyed this book. It wasn’t a “stay up all night because you can’t stop reading it” book, but I did have fun reading it and it did go by pretty quickly. I didn’t know anything about the historical Amber Room until I started reading this, either. Maybe that’s why I only “liked” it instead of “really liked” it. I had to stop and wonder if what Berry was telling me were the historical facts or the fictional historical facts.

Berry reads a lot like Dan Brown novels. The chapters are on the short side and the pacing is very fast. There’s a love interest, a mystery, and a revelation at the end. That’s pretty much the standard formula for suspense thrillers like this. Berry doesn’t seem to have as much of an ego as Brown, though. I find this refreshing. Do you know what I mean? Dan Brown has this way of writing like he’s the king of the universe with the BEST and most controversial ideas. Sometimes it’s a little daunting. Yet, Berry is a very natural writer whose ego never comes through (at least not yet, anyway. It is his first book).

The story itself seems a bit contrived in places, especially with regard to the love story between Rachel and her ex-husband. It comes across as too simple and too fabricated. But, I think this a genre convention. Plot devices drive these novels.

Here’s what I did like: the research. Berry is meticulous with his research. Other than what happened to the Amber Room, I’m fairly certain the other details of the time period and the history behind the room are correct. He even distinguishes between fact and fiction at the end of the novel in an author’s afterward. I do wish I had known about that before I started reading. It would have saved me a lot of time asking my husband if the facts were true. Alas. I also like the characters. They were interesting and didn’t feel fake. I got emotionally involved with this, which is a mark of a good read, to me.

Overall, this is a good read. If you love historical thrillers like Dan Brown’s novels, then chances are you’ll like this book, too.


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