Oh Steve Berry, you scamp! That Cotton Malone of yours, sure does get into a pinch now and again. Malone is the hardest working, ex-Magellan Billet agent around. Forget that there is no such thing as the Magellan Billet. Malone is like that lady on Murder She Wrote: he can't step out for a cup of coffee, or run into an old girlfriend, without an international incident blowing up in his face. But if that wasn't the case, then where would we be? We've got to suspend disbelieve and jump in.
I like the Cotton Malone series, and I've read a few of them, but this one didn't do it for me like the others did. I had a feeling about this one from the first few pages. Too many people died in this story without a real good reason. The other Cotton Malone stories had some kind of major discovery, or grand restoration, or unfathomable mystery that needed to be solved, but this one was personal for Malone. Sort of.
Malone starts out looking for something from his own past, and gets tangled up in a big mess. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why he didn't extract himself from it, and just go on with what he was doing. Berry just didn't explain that well enough for me. Its almost as if Malone was looking at a horrible accident unfolding in front of his eyes, and just couldn't look away.
Anyway, Berry always has some interesting, and entertaining historic tie-ins, and this one was no exception, although harvested from a little further afield than the Templar. The historical mystery in this one, was inspired, according to Berry, by the Voynich Manuscript: a mysterious, old and unreadable manuscript, which apparently was just dated by scientists to be early 15th century. The the manuscript was discovered by Wilfrid Voynich in 1912, at the Villa Mondragone, in Monte Porzio Catone, just east of Rome, in a lot of books being sold by the Society of Jesus.
Steve Barry spins an alternative history yard with the best of them, but I'm not sure The Charlemagne Pursuit is his best, but it was fun and kept me reading. I'll probably read the next one, but I won't go out and get it. It will show up at some point, I'm sure.