Cotton Malone returns for his most dangerous mission yet in Steve Berry’s (The Bishop’s Pawn, 2018, etc.) latest unputdownable thriller, The Malta Exchange.
The pope is dead.
Soon, the cardinals will vote to name a new leader of the church, and one man, unbeknownst to outsiders, has schemed and manipulated his way to becoming the favorite.
Having been hired by the British MI6, former Justice Department agent turned freelance operator Cotton Malone heads to Malta in search of rumored secret letters between Winston Churchill and Benito Mussolini that supposedly disappeared in 1945. Malta, as Cotton is familiar with, has been at the center of a number of power grabs throughout history. What he doesn’t know, however, is that multiple leaders have sought to control the area for reasons far beyond the land itself.
As it turns out, a great secret lies within the land, something that many—including those inside the Catholic church—have desperately tried to keep hidden, and accidentally Cotton walks right into the middle of it all.
Meanwhile, Magellan Billet agent Luke Daniels is also in Malta and in search of Cardinal Kastor Cardinal Gallo, who recently left the Vatican rather abruptly. A secret non-believer who only uses his religion for power, Kastor has aligned himself perfectly to become the next pope, which is why Daniels (and others) find the timing of his traveling curious. His motive, as Cotton and Luke—who team up after Cotton’s mission goes sideways and the papers he’s after are stolen from him—eventually uncover, centers around a mysterious group known as the Knights of Malta.
While they’ve existed for over 900 years, little is known about the knights, their origin, and what their mission is in today’s world. It doesn’t take long, though, for Cotton to draw their attention—or the attention of the Secreti, a cabal of sorts within the Knights’ ranks—kicking off a race between multiple secret organizations, including a covert spy organization working for the Vatican, that’ll leave a trail of dead bodies in its wake.
With the fate of the papacy hanging in the balance, Cotton Malone must sidestep danger at every turn in order to figure out what secrets could possibly be so damning that a number of powerful and famous historical figures would have gone to such trouble to keep them hidden . . . and why so many people are willing to kill for them in the present day.
After going back in time to tell Cotton Malone’s origin story in last year’s The Bishop’s Pawn, which was an inadvertent step backward from the success he saw with The Lost Order (2017), Steve Berry rights the ship in a big way here. Ordinarily, you can have lots of historical elements, mystery, puzzles, misdirection, and suspense, or lots of action. It’s hard to combine them all, and even harder to do it well, but Berry bucks the trend with this one, delivering a story that reads like something you’d expect to find if Dan Brown and Brad Thor ever co-authored a thriller together. The Malta Exchange has all the above and more, including a lights-out twit two-thirds of the way through the story, kicking off an intense, gripping final act that’ll have readers begging for the next book.
Think The Da Vinci Code on steroids, and you’ve got The Malta Exchange. Filled to the brim with nonstop action, spine-tingling suspense, and a twist that readers won’t soon forget, Steve Berry’s latest thriller is the finest work of his career.
Author: Steve Berry
Series: Cotton Malone #14
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.