I’ve not been feeling quite the love for Steve Berry’s books as I used to, finding the more recent ones (The Patriot Threat is so far exempt – I’m currently reading it) relied to heavily on exposition rather than simply allowing the characters and plot to drive the story. With The 14th Colony, however, Berry has a return to form with a fascinating, fast-paced and action-filled adventure that pits Cotton Malone and what remains of the Magellan Billet and friends against the US’s old foe – the former Soviet Union and a number of retired agents who have allowed their misplaced loyalty to a dead ideology and regime to not only fester, but metamorphose into something deadly.
In the final days of the presidency of Danny Daniels, Malone is sent into Russia by his former boss, Stephanie Nelle to see if he can discover the whereabouts of a missing Russian archivist. Instead, Malone fights for his life as he is first shot down, attacked, relentlessly chased and then encounters first hand the drive and passion of ex-KGB agent, Aleksandr Zorin.
Discovering a huge flaw in the US constitution that would render the country ungovernable should the unthinkable happen and the incoming president, VP and all under them perish, Zorin and remaining sleeper agents in the west, have kept secret the means to bring political chaos about – until now.
Armed with weapons thought to belong more in the realm of fiction than fact, and information garnered from the archives of a reclusive patriotic group, the Society of Cincinnati, Zorin and those who share his myopic vision, set about bringing America to its knees.
From the first chapter, the clock counts down as preparations for the presidential inauguration commence and Zorin’s diabolical and, it seems, unstoppable plan, are put in motion.
From the ice-wastelands of Russia, to Canada and various locations around the USA, the reader is taken on a roller-coaster ride as not only Malone, but those he’s relied upon in previous adventures, rush to his aid: Luke Daniels, Stephanie, the soon-to-be-retired, Daniels, and even his estranged lover, Cassiopeia.
Shifting points of view and missions as well as enemies both within and without the two major powers make this a rollicking read. Mixing fact and fiction, Berry poses the question “what if?” and then creates a terrific read around an improbable and frightening possibility.
My only reservation is his tendency to didacticism – the need to incorporate what’s clearly painstaking research into the novel. I would prefer to be shown or have the parts of the constitution and various documents that are utilised paraphrased. As a reader, I trust Berry to take me for the ride without these sidebars of “proof”. I found them interesting but ultimately, in terms of reading pleasure, distracting.
Overall, a good, exciting read that kept me awake into the wee hours.
Berry is back.