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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review - The Paris Vendetta

It has been awhile since I have reviewed a hard core suspense novel. I purchased this when I was in Paris and the places and sites in the book where more alive to me for just having visited them. Join me in this fast paced ride combining contemporary suspense and historical mystery.

Author: Steve Berry

Copyright: July 2010 (Ballantine Books) 496 pgs

Series: 5th in The Cotton Malone Adventures

Sensuality: adult references

Mystery Sub-genre: Suspense

Main Character:  Cotton Malone, a former U.S. Justice Department operative now owner of a used book store in Copenhagen

Setting: Modern day Paris primarily

Obtained book: Personal Purchase

The prologue takes the reader to the Giza Plaza in Egypt, 1799 to join Napoleon at the Great Pyramid.  Chapter one jumps us to current day Copenhagen with Cotton Malone waking in his apartment to the realization somebody is there sneaking around.  He finds a young conspiracy theorist (Sam Collins) asking for his help.  Sam, an agent fired because of his conspiracy website, was sent by the Danish billionaire Henrik Thorvaldsen, who had set Malone up with his used book store.   

Henrik Thorvaldsen had befriended Malone five years earlier when Malone had taken out several terrorists in Mexico city who had killed Henrik's son in the incident.  Henrik has tracked down the two men responsible and one of them was about to attack Henrik.  The instant Malone rushes to Henrik's aid he steps into a whirlwind of Disaster Capitalism conspiracy (via the financial cartel "the Paris Club"), two vendettas, a hunt for Napoleon's mythic treasure, and a reunion with his Justice Dept. boss. 

It was my first Steve Berry novel and it was easy enough to catch up on the back story.  There are several instances of back flashes for several of the characters filling in histories.  At times the flashbacks hindered the flow a bit.  Also the story would occasionally alternate between Napoleonic times and modern day.  I didn't mind this technique but some dislike it - so fair warning. 

There are two real villains but one rises above the other as being the most dangerous that must be stopped at all costs.  This is suspenseful with plenty of danger and improbable stunts.  Cotton Malone is supposed to be middle aged and yet carries off "Jason Bourne" style rescues - which is a great thought and makes those "of a certain age" hoot and holler but stretches the believability a bit thin.  Never-the-less it is like junk food in its appeal.

Henrik's obsession with killing the last man who was behind his son's death got old later in the book.  I wanted to like Henrik and this was difficult for me.  

Sam was introduced and I got the impression that he may be featured more in future books of the series - but that made this book suffer.  I felt as though Malone's spotlight was being shared to setup Sam and I wanted to stay focused on Malone.  That along with the character flashbacks, several subplots and reverting back to Napoleon occasionally left the book feeling a bit unfocused.

There is plenty of history about Napoleon in this book which I found fascinating but not everybody will enjoy since it slows down the action.  The Disaster Capitalism conspiracy seemed to take the book "Shock Doctrine" and utilize it in the plot which actually gave a great demonstration of how powerful people make fortunes from disasters.  I found that a selling point for the book alone.

I enjoyed it overall, despite the few detractors.  If you enjoy history and suspense this may be a new series to indulge in.

Here is a video of Steve Berry and James Rollins discussing the book.  This is a short video but I think you will enjoy it.

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