The Lost Order is the twelfth book in Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series and, once again, we find the former Magellan Billet agent immersed in conspiracies and doing his utmost to save America and those he loves from greedy, power-hungry people.
This instalment features characters we’ve come to know and love, including former President, Danny Daniels, the head of the Magellan Billet and Malone’s friend, Stephanie Nelle as well as the marvellous Cassiopeia Vitt. There’s even a strange historical sect, described as a terrorist organisation, called the Knights of the Golden Circle to either ally with or defeat, depending on whom Malone, Nelle, Daniels of Vitt believes.
There is a map to follow (well, it has to be pieced together first), a key, dysfunctional relationships, betrayal, murder and ambition aplenty. There are tight situations, gun fights, collapsing buildings, dynamite, implausible escapes and some really dumb moves by people who should know better. There are also huge doses of history.
I really appreciate the history and effort that goes into a Berry book. I don’t even mind the predictable and sometimes repetitive action, after all, this is Malone’s schtick. He’d hardly be a super, secret agent if he didn’t haveto shoot himself out of a quandry, have split-second decisions to make and people to kill/rescue. It’s the history and the way that it’s woven into the novels lately that’s becoming a bit hard to take. Well, it’s not exactly woven – and that’s the problem. You seem to get an information dump between a chase sequence or some dramatic revelation that leads to action. While Berry does action very well, the history is often too didactic and, frankly, overdone. His books didn’t always feel that way, but I found The Lost Order a bit too like a lesson in US Constitutional Law and American political history interspersed with some scenes with Malone et al, than a rootin’ tootin’ action thriller like his earlier novels.
Then, there’s the women. While Cassiopeia and Stephanie (who is out of action for a great deal of the book) are drawn quite well, I found the female “villain” of this book very two dimensional and her motivation so vaudevillian, it became improbable. I am all for suspending my disbelief, and I love that Berry takes the reader on a ride where we can, but this woman, Diane, was just too much. Cruella De Ville minus the hounds but on steroids. I couldn’t even accept the man she’d been married to was one of Daniels’ good friends. Daniels is a nice guy and you get the sense Diane’s husband is too – if so, then what on earth was he doing married to that cow? She needed to have even one redeeming quality… she did not.
Likewise, a couple of the male “baddies” (and there’s no other word to really describe them) aren’t fleshed out either. They are just insanely (often literally) committed to a cause and don’t seem to have accepted times have changed. Thus, they will kill whoever to get whatever they want: money, power, or to ensure no-one else has it. They are a bit predictable – they run on one emotion, one idea, and we always know they’re going to kill or be killed…
Fortunately, over all, the book has many ideas and I did enjoy reading about Cotton and crew again.
I just think that next time, I’d like a little more adventure and a little less of a lesson.