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.
Steve Berry ushers Cotton Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt into the sixteenth novel of the series, which is full of intrigue, political banter, and historical ‘what if’ moments in the middle of an important election. The future of Germany is at stake with two contenders for the chancellorship and a country on the verge of change. As Malone and Vitt travel across three continents, they uncover the truth behind a mystery that is seventy-five years in the making. A chilling glance into what might have happened in a Berlin bunker and the web of deceit spun in its aftermath. Recommended to those who love Berry’s work, as well as the reader who enjoys a little historical pondering in their thrillers.
Working off the books, former US President Danny Daniels arrives in Germany with a portfolio of information to deliver to an old friend. At stake is the winner of Germany’s most coveted political position, the chancellorship. Its current holder seeks to continue use her control of the political system, but a challenger holds the reins of the nationalistic right and is supported by a base who find solace in hate and racial purity.
Within the portfolio is the truth behind the events of April 30, 1945, when Hitler and his new wife, Eva Braun, apparently took their lives rather than see the fall of Germany. However, while the Russians claim to have found Hitler’s body and buried it, questions remain about Braun. Cotton Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt are called in to poke around, which will include extensive research in Chile. While their lives will be put in danger, as they unravel the complexities of the post-war fates of many Germans, neither is willing to dismiss the possible truths that have been diluted by war-time histories with obvious biases.
Might Evan Braun have escaped with one of Hitler’s confidants? Could their connection have led to a romantic connection that bore a child, one who was whisked away and adopted by another family? It will take more than a crafty marksman to deter Malone and Vitt, as they reveal all and make their way to South Africa to learn just how complex this secret, dubbed the Kaiser’s Web, proves to be.
With the fate of Germany in the balance, secrets will come to light, but will it all be in time to let the country know before a chancellor is picked? Might the end result leave Germany back in the hands of the national socialists, no longer needing a putsch and beer hall to wreak havoc on the strongest economy in Europe? Malone cannot sit idly by, but even he is not sure which side is favoured in this web of lies and deception.
Steve Berry has never shied away from controversial subjects, all while injecting the ‘what if’ question into his narrative. Spinning truths he has uncovered with just the right flavouring of fiction, Berry develops a story that series fans are sure to love, with a backdrop of far-right politics that is sure to resonate in an era when elected leaders turn into tyrants drunk on power.
Cotton Malone has always been a strong, if not entirely loveable, character in these books. Painted as a former Justice Department operative who sought solitude with an antique bookstore in Denmark, Malone has always kept one foot in the realm of active duty. This story pushes him not to explore more of his backstory, but to help clarify a major issue, all while seeking to stay alive for one more day. There is not the traditional development that a series might bring to a character, but more a constant hunger for truth, even when it is buried beneath the rubble of time and deception.
Berry uses some returning characters to add flavouring to his series, but also uses a handful of key characters who are essential to the plot at hand. He mixes history and present-day when presenting those who serve as effective vessels in portraying the many layers of his narrative and there is never a dull moment as the reader learns more about the people on the page and the history behind them.
Blurring the lines between fact and fiction is what Berry does best, though he is always keen to shine the light on things in his author’s note. Berry touches on some relevant issues with the rise of the neo-Nazi movement, as well as nationalism in general, throughout this piece. The narrative is strong and keeps building throughout, while the characters embody the tension that comes from truths being unearthed. The pace of the plot never slows and the twists come throughout the story. Working through a strong storyline, the piece keeps the reader enthralled as they ask themselves what might really have happened as the Russians advanced on a crippled Berlin back in 1945. I know I was keen to see what Berry had to say in his end of story note, as I am sure many others will be who devour this book!
Kudos, Mr. Berry, for another winner. I love how you use the present day to make the past come to light, leaving many to question what they really know and where they may have been blindly led.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons