The Lake of Learning (Cassiopeia Vitt #3), by Steve Berry and M.J. Rose

Eight stars

Steve Berry and M.J. Rose return with another novella in which Cassiopeia Vitt is able to take centre stage. Exploring some of the older aspects of European based religions, the reader will learn much and be dazzled by the intricate detail. While excavating for her ongoing castle project, Cassiopeia Vitt and her team uncover an old book whose contents make it not only rare, but extremely valuable. When she is visited by an interested party, Cassiopeia gets a bad feeling about Roland Beláncourt, who insists that he needs this book. While Cassiopeia is able to dismiss him, Beláncourt persists, telling her all about the history of Catharism, something about which Vitt is familiar. It would seem this book not only speaks of the Cathars, but also speaks of an ancient relic and location that could be key to enlightened discoveries. As Vitt seeks some outside assistance to find this ‘Lake of Learning’, she continues to encounter trouble from Beláncourt, who will stop at nothing to ensure he gets his hands on the book. Vitt does not have Cotton Malone to help her, but she will need to find some way of staying ahead of the the trouble that awaits her. Berry and Rose have come up with an interesting tale here, mixing history with a female protagonist. Recommended to those who have long enjoyed Berry’s work (which includes Cassiopeia) and likely readers who are familiar with Rose’s style of writing.

I have long been a fan of Steve Berry’s writing, which has included minor roles for Cassiopeia Vitt. When I noticed that Berry had teamed up with M.J. Rose, I was interested to see how they would elevate this most interesting character without losing some of the intriguing history that is woven throughout each tale. This novella touches on an era that I suspect Rose uses regularly, which meshes well with some of what we know about Cassiopeia. This female protagonist does well guiding the story along. While she is away from the love of her life—Cotton Malone—she does well to keep the reader interested in her medieval building project, which spills into talk of the Cathars. She is by no means a damsel, but also does not seek conflict where she can help it. There are a few other characters whose presence add depth to the story, including the gritty Roland Beláncourt, whose determination helps fuel some clashes surrounding the possession of the book. The story gathers momentum in the early chapters and never loses its speed. I am happy to see an ongoing ability to mix history with action in yet another piece by these two authors. I can only hope that they continues an annual tradition of working together to develop some wonderful stories.

Kudos, Mr. Berry and Madam Rose, for an interesting piece that kept me curious throughout. This is a collaboration that is growing on me.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: