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The Venetian Betrayal    by Steve Berry Amazon.com order for
Venetian Betrayal
by Steve Berry
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Let's just cut to the chase: Steve Berry, the phenomenally successful author of suspense-filled, action-packed, provocative thrillers has offered up another highly recommended adventure in The Venetian Betrayal. Buy it. Read it. Enjoy it.

Now, for those reluctant skeptics who aren't yet persuaded (and for readers unfamiliar with Berry's work), here is a tease (without spoilers) that ought to get you into the bookstore as soon as The Venetian Betrayal hits the shelves (on or before December 11th).

At some point in the not-so-distant future, Irina Zovastina, the power-hungry and cold-blooded Supreme Minister of the Central Asian Federation has an obsessive interest in Alexander the Great, unfettered access to a large stockpile of biological weapons, and a ruthless resolution to accomplish several goals. In fact, she will let absolutely nothing or no one get in the way of her objectives: find Alexander the Great's lost tomb, obtain all eight of the legendary medallions that cryptically commemorate Alexander's conquests and his ultimate achievement, and - as a first step in world-domination - attack and conquer the Central Asian Federation's neighbors, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.

At the same time, Enrico Vincenti is nearing the end of his role as leader of the powerful Council of Ten, a covert organization that leads the Venetian League, a consortium of more than 400 hardnosed and ambitious capitalists. Before he finishes his tenure, however, Vincenti - the pharmaceutical magnate with what may be the key to solving the world's most pernicious health problem - is determined to complete and quietly profit from a secret alliance with Zovastina.

Meanwhile, neither Zovastina nor Vincenti has anticipated the involvement of Cotton Malone - a Copenhagen bookshop owner with ties to the Magellan Billet, a covert unit within the Justice Department of the United States. Malone and his colleagues follow closely on the murderous, fiery trail of the Alexander-medallion thieves, and soon - because of White House involvement, participation by the Vatican, and personal vendettas - Malone and company will find themselves up to their necks in incredible danger and face-to-face with the potential for unimaginable world-wide terror.

Throughout The Venetian Betrayal, appearances are deceiving, duplicity is epidemic, loyalties are mutable and questionable, the body counts are quickly rising, and the action and suspense are relentless. Author Steve Berry gives readers plenty of thought-provoking twists in his labyrinthine, perfectly executed plot: history, religion, politics, capitalism, and science are on a deadly collision course, and with a maniacal west Asian despot dreaming of historically ordained world conquest (through whatever means available, including the unspeakable nightmare of biological warfare), The Venetian Betrayal has a gut-wrenching plausibility.

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth (Rating:2):

Steve Berry's sixth novel, The Venetian Betrayal, keeps the reader's heart beating just a little faster as suspense builds. Mind-boggling action demands attention. A complex plot that needed careful handling to work, does just that. And does it work!

In 323 B.C.E, Alexander the Great succumbed to a mysterious fever. Until today, his burial place has remained hidden. A new nation has formed the Central Asian Federation ruled by an ambitious woman (Supreme Minister Irina Zovastina) who chooses to bite off chunks of the world for her own gratification. Her next ploy is to release a deadly virus that only she will have the means to cure.

Cotton Malone, a former U.S. Justice Department agent, is drawn into the plan as an adversary and it seems to be up to him to find the cure before Zovastina does. They are hot on the trail, each trying to outdo the other. The final resting spot for Alexander, if discovered, will pinpoint what is needed to save millions of lives. This quest brings out the worst in some characters - seeking glory, billions of dollars and revenge. Mustn't forget revenge. Greek Fire for murder, the gunning down of various men (including many nameless guards), death by bow and arrow, and myriad other means of death and destruction keep the reader turning pages long into the night.

The monumental research that went into the writing of The Venetian Betrayal gives the book the feel of reality. It's a fantasy building on history and imagination to conjure a tale that (hopefully!) could never really happen.

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