The Warsaw Protocol (Cotton Malone #15), by Steve Berry

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Steve Berry and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I rushed to begin Steve Berry’s latest Cotton Malone thriller, sure to be filled with historical facts and a great deal of adventure. Berry did not disappoint, mixing some current geo-politics with Poland’s communist era, finding the perfect balance throughout. While Cotton Malone is in Belgium to acquire some rare books, he witnesses the theft of an ancient Christian relic. Unable to stop the thieves, he is detained by the local authorities and questioned. When Malone’s former boss—Stephanie Nelle—come upon him by happenstance, he is intrigued by what brings her to Europe. When Nelle introduces Malone to a member of the new US Administration, they butt heads from the start. Malone is told of a secret auction that is being held to release a cache of highly troubling information about the current Polish President. Entry for the auction comes in the form of one of the central Christian relics, one of which Malone saw lifted earlier. While Malone is not interested in the mission, or helping anyone within the new Administration, his mind changes when he encounters an old friend with whom he had strong ties. Malone agrees to help with the heist to help the Americans gain entry into this auction, but when he meets Janusz Czajkowski, Malone discovers the man is simply trying to protect his country’s sovereignty. At a time when Poland was the plaything of the Soviets, its autonomy was always threatened. Even when the Iron Curtain came down, Poland’s location in Europe made it a pawn in the American war to keep its enemies at bay. After the auction goes sideways, Malone must determine his next move, particularly when the US President tries to strong-arm his own agenda, clueless to international diplomacy. With the blackmail documents hidden somewhere in rural Poland, Malone soon learns about Czajkowski’s past and the Warsaw Protocol, a means of building up the Polish Resistance. Blood will be shed and the reader will learn much about the area, as Berry spins a tale that offers twists at every page turn. Recommended to those who have long enjoyed the Cotton Malone series, as well as the reader who enjoys some spin on some of the current political situation the world over.

I always enjoy when a new Steve Berry novel hits my radar, as I can be assured of a wonderful story and a great deal of history, some of which end up being well-padded fiction. Turning things to Poland, Berry is able to explore this key country in the Soviet Empire and how its independence came at a great cost. Cotton Malone is back for his fifteenth adventure, pushing him to his limits. While Malone is always on his toes in this piece, the reader learns much about some of his past, receiving fragments of a time when he was in the Navy and some of the people who crossed his path. Fully out of the secret Magellan Billet, Malone does not have any protection of the current US Administration, though he makes it clear that he cannot stand POTUS or those who choose to be his sycophants. Others appear throughout and push the narrative forward, while complementing Malone’s presence at every turn. The reader is able to learn much about Poland through certain key characters, as is common with Berry’s novels. The story worked well for me, educating me about a great deal of things, particularly Poland’s emergence from behind the Iron Curtain, as well as how America has continued to use it as a foothold in the region. Berry mixes some of the long-standing history of the country with new threads that play nicely into the modern geo-political situation. With a book comprised primary with short chapters, the reader is able to push through this piece with little issue, finding themselves in the middle of a highly exciting story. I can only hope that Malone and those closest to him will appear again soon in another exciting adventure.

Kudos, Mr. Berry, for another captivating piece. I always enjoy the mix of fact and fiction you present to the reader.

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