I cannot believe that it has been five years since I read a Steven Berry novel. “So many books, so little time” is the quote of the day. The Malta Exchange is the book I just finished reading. As in most of Mr. Berry’s stories, there is an element of real history. In this case, he tackles the origins of the Catholic Church. Do not panic. It is not a religious story but contains intrigue, fights, chases and international locations.
Sir James Grant of the British intelligence agency, MI6, hires Cotton Malone to retrieve 11 letters written between Winston Churchill and Benito Mussolini pre WWII that could prove embarrassing for Britain. Malone goes to the Lake Como (where Mussolini was captured and executed in 1945) area of Italy (northern Italy) to fetch the letters. A seemingly simple errand leads Malone into a shootout with persons unknown. Malone is well paid (50,000 Euros) because of his background as a retired agent for Magellan Billet (a group designed to clean-up government spy mishaps, attached to the United States Department of Justice) and current antiquarian bookseller in Copenhagen, Denmark. He finds and then almost immediately loses the letters. Sir James doubles the fee for Cotton to continue to find the 11 letters.
This pursuit leads Cotton and his friend Luke Daniel, an agent of Magellan Billet, into a search for the lost Nostra Trinitas, three documents that gave the Knights of Malta extraordinary power. The Knights are still in existence and can trace their history back to the time of the Crusades (12th/13th centuries). One part of the Trinitas is a document prepared by Emperor Contantine in the year 325 that could destroy the Catholic Church.
Other important characters in the story are:
Laura Price a senior agent for intelligence service of Malta.
Kastor Cardinal Gallo, a Vatican Cardinal who is the Vatican liaison to the operation of the Knights of Malta and who wants to be elected Pope (did I mention that the current Pope had just died?).
Pollux Gallo is the identical twin brother of Kastor and current temporary head of the Knights of Malta. He does not get along with his twin.
Archbishop Danjel Spagna is in charge of The Entity, the Vatican’s very efficient and professional intelligence agency who has information that could change the Papal Election.
As usual, Steven Berry tells a great story. The historical aspects are intriguing. What fun way to learn history! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
GO! BUY! READ!
–Jim Harris, retired book sales rep
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