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The Charlemagne Pursuit    by Steve Berry Amazon.com order for
Charlemagne Pursuit
by Steve Berry
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Steve Berry has done it again - written a thriller that is very hard to put down. Top-secret Nazi and American operations (that have been classified for over seventy years) set Cotton Malone on the trail to find why and how his father died. Cotton was only ten when his father disappeared from his life. Told his dad died in a North Atlantic submarine mishap, he discovers that it actually happened under the ice shelves of Antarctica in a highly secret and extremely costly submarine.

His investigations take him to Germany, France, and the lovely Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina. He tangles with killers, not quite honest political hopefuls, a really slimy admiral, and a pair of almost over-the-hill twins with an overbearing self-serving mother whose husband died along with Malone's father.

The whole story revolves around Charlemagne's contention that there was a global civilization back before we believed that man actually stood upright on earth. According to this novel, Charlemagne, considered the Father of Europe, left clues along with undecipherable tablets from these very ancient peoples, as well as his own diary. The plot is interwoven with many disturbing truths as well as the results of Berry's wonderfully active imagination - all of which he ties together into a flawless continuity.

We learn that the Nazis explored Antarctica as early as 1938, tracking clues found in Charlemagne's tomb. An ancient historian left journals penned in 'the language of heaven.' It is felt the translation of these journals could greatly affect humankind today. Action never seems to stop. If the characters aren't chasing someone, they are in the process of planning such a chase. Who knows whom to trust? Are the baddies really the baddies? Is Malone being steered in the direction he believes is of his own choosing?

The story skips from one locale to another in short leaps. The reader must pay attention at all times, but that is easy to do. The story is so good. I had one tiny problem two of the main characters shared the first letter of their last names, making it easy for me to mistake one for the other. Minor, I know, but I guess I'm easily confused. Dead bodies litter the scenes. Some good. Some bad. Suspense builds at a rapid rate. The locations brought wanderlust to my eyes. A German cathedral. The French Pyrenees. And Biltmore what better place to spend the Christmas season.

Publisher's Weekly calls The Charlemagne Pursuit 'The best yet in the series.' And 'Berry outdoes himself ... making this his most personal and best book to date,' says the Library Journal. Hear, hear.

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