Why, hello there Mr. Blog. It seems that you have been on the neglected end of my schedule. I do apologise. Sooo very much.
But, hey, to be fair to me, I did mention in my last post that I would be irregular because of Ramadan. And fasting for 15 hours is no easy feat. Also, my grandmother and aunt are visiting from abroad and I have been completely busy catching up with them.
There have been a few newly released books on my reading list and Steve Berry’s latest The King’s Deception was one of them. To start of, I am not a fan of Steve Berry. So you ask why do I buy his books, and that too every year? To be honest, I don’t know myself. I am not hugely impressed by his previous books. His The Emperor’s Tomb was just meh, The Jefferson Key outrightly boring and I don’t know what was Steve Berry on when he wrote The Columbus Affair. I mean that one didn’t even have a proper storyline, forget suspense. And after reading that one, I promised no more Steve Berry. But then 2013 came and the old slate was wiped clean. As always, I can’t stop reading books of the The Da Vinci Code genre. There is one other author who makes me feel the same way, and that is Jodi Picoult. Her earlier works were really interesting, different social issues were brought to light, human drama at its very best, but lately her books have become predictable and I don’t know why I buy her books every year too. BTW, her latest The Storyteller is also on my reading list. See what I mean. It’s like an unhealthy addiction that I can’t get over with. Maybe I need an “Intervention” from the HIMYM guys
Anyways, moving on to the present and I was wondering what Steve Berry’s latest book would be about. Happily, for me, it’s based on one of my favorite topics. English Royals and that too the Tudors. Philippa Gregory has had me hooked on them since her first novel of the Tudors series The Constant Princess. Between her books and The Tudors series (starring handsome Jonathan Rhys Meyers and a yummy Henry Cavill), I know most of the basics of that era. Needless to say, I just went and bought myself a copy, forgetting the author’s previous failures.
The setting of the novel is in jolly old England (hence my attempt to be overly English in the beginning of the post). Steve Berry’s favorite protagonist Cotton Malone (Cotton? Yeah, don’t ask me why. Steve Berry hasn’t revealed the mystery behind the name till now) and also the hero of most of his novels, returns in this one again. Cotton is an ex Magellan Billet agent ( a division of the US Justice Dept that handles international investigations). He is also an ex husband with a teenage son. The previous novels have outlined his personal life a bit. A bitter divorce. Unhappy ex wife. He is now a bookseller in Copenhagen, Denmark. Why the jump from a spy to a bookseller is beyond me, and Steve Berry hasn’t given a plausible explanation for that either up till now.
Cotton Malone is revising an old incident to his ex wife (with whom he has recently been on good terms) involving a favor he did to his ex boss Stephanie Nelle and chaperoned a transfer of an unknown teenage delinquent Ian Dunne from USA to UK to be handed over to the police there. He is also travelling with his son and they are heading to Denmark via London. A simple favor goes awry, when a couple of guys pretending to be cops, kidnap the trio at the airport and in an ensuing struggle with Cotton Malone, manage to get away with kidnapping Cotton’s son Gary. Cotton realises that Ian was the real target and on questioning the boy finds out that he has been witness to a murder and has had a murder attempt on his life as well. Why so much hassle on an orphan teenage thief? He confesses that he pickpocketed a flash drive from a guy moments before he witnessed his murder. So, now Cotton has to hand over the drive as well as the boy over to the villians in exchange for his son. But nothing is as what it seems.
Before you know it, CIA and MI6 both are out to get the flash drive. What’s on the device? you ask. It holds the proof to a secret that is centuries old, involving an English royal. Queen Elizabeth the First to be precise. Should I go ahead and tell you what the secret is? Generally, I am not the spoilsport type, but I think I should say something here. Who knows, maybe some of you might be intrigued enough to give this book a try.
I am surprised that despite knowing a lot of the Tudor royals, I was unaware of the controversy of Queen Elizabeth possibly being a MALE!!! Whoa! Shocking, right??? It seems that a lot of people including Bram Stoker (of Dracula fame) were convinced of the same. There are a many incidences mentioned in the book that supposedly prove this theory, one of them being The Bisley Boy rumor, which says that Princess Elizabeth died of a sickness when she was young and because her nanny didn’t want to be held responsible and possibly be hanged by KIng Henry, conspired with another man to have a similar looking boy replace her. It was a boy because they could not find a girl who looked close enough to pass off as Elizabeth. Who is the boy, is a mystery I won’t reveal here. A lot of questions are put up in the book such as Why Queen Elizabeth never married, despite the importance of a royal heir? Why she was always covered in heavy garb? Why she wore heavy makeup? Why she never let doctors touch her? Why she never allowed her real face to be shown in self portraits? Why is she buried in the same tomb as her stepsister Queen Mary? What is the real meaning behind her last words uttered just before the Queen’s death? The answer is maybe SHE was actually a HE and did not want to be discovered.
So Queen Elizabeth was a man, why should we care? More importantly, why is the CIA and MI6 interested in such an old secret? That is another simple yet chilling revelation in the book. This one, I won’t tell. You have to read the book to find out.
Scandals and Mystery. That should be the middle name of all Tudor royals. In fact, all royals, I think. They all make for interesting novels. I just can’t have enough of them. That’s the reason why I read any book involving them. I’m glad that Steve Berry finally gave out a decent novel, with some actual shocking mystery involved. The last book by him that I truly enjoyed was The Alexandria Link. There are some sub plots in the book involving the relationship between the protagonist and his son, a CIA operative and his unhealthy habit to abuse women, a SOCA official (an English federal agency akin to FBI) on the verge of losing her job.
One of the things I don’t like about Steve Berry’s novels is that he never seems to give his characters a touch of reality. I mean how convenient is it for the lead hero to have a photographic memory. No need for pen and paper when you’re a gung-ho ex-spy fighting the bad guys. Unbelievable. And I’m sure Steve Berry holds some secret aspirations about having his books turned into movies or else why would his writing at times seems more like a movie screenplay, especially when he is playing out a multiple character action scene. But, I can almost forgive all that in this book, just because of the scandalous rumor of Queen Elizabeth’s real identity.
Is it a Hit? Almost. It’s a great fun read, a perfect companion for travelling. If you love royal scandals (like me), you will definitely enjoy this book.
Is it a Miss? No, not this one at least. But, I have ranted enough about the author’s previous books and also the fact that all his books, including this one have very unreal characters. So if you like your books with substance, then this one is definitely not for you. In fact, Steve Berry does not even come close to Dan Brown, just because his book plots don’t portray the in depth, well researched topics in Dan Brown’s novels.
In the end, this one is a personal preference type novel. Not everyone will enjoy it. But the book plot is definitely worth checking out. Even if it is on the internet.
So, are you guys sold out on this book? Or you think it’s a waste of time. Let me know what you think.
The pictures of Queen Elizabeth have been taken from the site below