Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Couldn't put it down: The Alexandria Link

Steve Berry’s latest book is, in my opinion, his best.

The Alexandria Link builds a story around the lost library of Alexandria. Berry is a history buff, and so am I. He always engages my interest because he does his research carefully and he prods the story along with lots of action. He’s widely traveled, so the descriptions of locale always feel authentic.

What’s riveting about this book relates to a real theory put forth by a Lebanese scholar, Kamal Salibi. Salibi theorized, in a series of books, that many Biblical locations are mapped incorrectly—that the traditional land of Israel is in fact in West Arabia. Further intrigue revolves around the Saudi leveling of a neighborhood in that very area after Salibi’s works were published.

The novel's plot sends Berry’s main character Cotton Malone, a seller of rare books, retired from a U.S. intelligence agency, on a fantastic chase to track down the library by way of clues. Berry puts Middle East politics and American politics on the front burner, but this doesn’t impede the reader’s pleasure. Salibi's premise of Biblical locations mapped incorrectly contributes an air of intrigue and makes the reader think about something most of us never even considered. Berry skillfully weaves the real-life premises into his fiction.

This is easily his best book. I’ve read each of his novels, and he is just really coming into his own. He’s much more at ease with the characters, and his prose is very graceful. Berry is a natural-born storyteller.

I’ve met Steve several times at author events where we both were speaking, and he is a very nice fellow. Despite his string of bestsellers, he comes off as a regular fellow. Knowing that makes reading his work even more pleasurable for me.

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