Friday, November 21, 2008

The Venetian Betrayal - Book Review

The Venetian Betrayal
By Steve Berry
Random House 2007

Up until 10 minutes ago before writing this post. I thought I had read every single Steve Berry book. BUT I have just discovered another new book - The Charlemagne Pursuit - which I now have to track down and read. I LOVE reading Steve Berry thrillers. They always include a major historial character or location.

The last book I read was the Alexandria Link in which Cotton Malone discovers the Alexandria library which has been missing since the 5th century CE. I read and reviewed The Alexandria Link last year.

Now I have read this book called The Venetian Betrayal. This novel is about Alexander the Great. Another one of my favourite characters in History - precisely because so little is known about him. Not to mention that he created the biggest empire on Earth.

In this novel, Cotton Malone is back in Copenhagen selling books. He has rebuilt his book store, destroyed in the previous adventure (blown up with a missile).

The book opens with Malone regaining conciousness in a building that is obviously on fire. His skin and clothes smell of sulphuer and lighter fluid as do the walls and floor of the building.

When Malone tries to leave the building, he finds the main door is locked. Luckily his friend and colleague Cassiopea Vitt shows up and helps him to escape just before the building explodes. Noether of them see the two men further down the street watching the building as it burns.

What were you doing in there? I told you to meet me there tomorrow morning. Vitt tells Malone.
But it would have burned down by then. Malone replies.
Precisely says Vitt. Which is what I needed you to see.

It turns out that the building was a museum, that Malone's boss had recently purchased purely because it had ONE valuable item. An elephant medallion said to have been made by Alexander the Great. There are only 8 such medallions known to exist and someone is systematically stealing them all.

Malone and Vitt begin the search for whomever is stealing these medallions. The search leads them to the Central Asian Federation. A new federation made up of the 5 former Central Asian republics (of the Soviet Union) and now working together as one large federation. The Supreme Minister is a women named Irina Zovastina.

Irina is fascinated by the ancient Greek culture and literature. She is also fascinated by Alexander the Great. She has learnt of a special draught that Alexander took to stay healthy. Except that there was no draught available when he died. The doctor had run out and the new batch had not yet arrived. Which is why Alexander died.

Ely Lund (a friend of Cassiopeia's) had discovered an ancient Byzantine manuscript with a palimpset on it. A palimpsest is where the original writing on a manuscript ot scraped off and new writing is written over the old. The most famous palimpsest known to man is the Archimedes palimpsest. For purposes of this story, Ely had discovered a palimpsest written by a young man in Alexanders army. He gave details of the draught that kept Alexander healthy, and he also wrote riddles and clues on how to find this draught. Ely had been abducted by Irina Zovastina and was forced to find the draught by any means possible.

Then there was the mystery of what happened to Alexanders body. Most of us know the story. How Alexander wanted to be buried in Macedonia, but because he did not have an heir, he was said to have told his generals that the "strongest" one of them was to be his heir.

In the end the generals broke the empire up between them. As one general was taking Alexanders body back to Macedonia, the caravan was attacked and the body removed to Alexandria in Egypt by another general - Ptolemy - who later became the pharoah of Egypt.

St Mark's body was mummified in the first century CE (Common Era) in Alexandria where he died. In the 4th century CE Alexander's body disappeared from Alexandria. shortly after St Marks body reappeared in Venice. The rumour was that St Mark's body in Venice was really that of Alexander the Great. So The Supreme Minister Irina goes to Venice to see for herself.

As the search continues, Vitt and Malone meet up with Ely and eventually they find the source of the draught. They also discover its amazing healing properties. It is later discovered that this new bacteria actually cures all illnesses including one of the modern worlds most devasting pathogens.

You will have to read the book to find out which disease it is. And to find out just where Alexander's body is really buried. As I said earlier, I love Alexander the Great. So this was a very interesting book for me to read.

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