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The Amber Room    by Steve Berry Amazon.com order for
Amber Room
by Steve Berry
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover

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*   Reviewed by Liz Cooper

Rachel Cutler is happy with her life. She has a successful career as a courtroom judge, two beautiful children, and a wonderful relationship with her ex-husband. But when her father is found dead, Rachel's husband Paul discovers letters that he left, warning her not to dig into the past or attempt to discover the secret he kept hidden for forty years the location of the Amber Room.

The Amber Room is made up of 86 square meters of pure amber. It was originally begun by Frederick the Great of Prussia in 1701 - and it hasn't been seen since the Germans tried to hide it away in 1945. But now, as clues about the long lost treasure begin to resurface, two private collectors have sent out their own personal 'Acquisitors' to locate and retrieve it. Only Rachel and Paul stand in the way of their dangerous hunt for the treasure.

Though the subject of The Amber Room is fascinating, and it's clear that the author did a great deal of research, the novel is surprisingly unpolished, with inconsistencies throughout. For example, once inside a cave, how does a person drape a chain around the outside of the cave door to make it look as if the lock hasn't been tampered with? And why does a well-placed laxative in a glass of iced tea have no effect on the intended target, even though he drinks the entire contents of the glass?

In the Writer's Note at the end of the novel, Steve Berry mentions that he's traveled to many of the places depicted, and it shows in authentic backgrounds. But at times, the descriptions of hotels, restaurants, and streets seem more like a travelogue than well-placed details which should otherwise add depth to the story. The characters are also one-dimensional, and as a reader I found it difficult to care for any of them.

As historical fiction, The Amber Room works reasonably well, but it falls flat as a mystery. Yet the subject is intriguing, so read it if you're interested in discovering fascinating information about a relatively unexplored long lost artifact.

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