The latest blend of history and thrills ... fun and engaging ... Elements of the story echo Dan Brown and Berry’s first Cotton Malone adventure, The Templar Legacy. What makes his novels stand out is the level of research to make the foundation of the story solid and then adding some mayhem and chaos. After shaking them all together, the result is a thriller that intrigues and provides historical context. Berry is the master scientist with a perfect formula for the best-seller lists.
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.
The events unfold at a breakneck pace, as usual, but Berry slows things down once in a while to give the reader some much-needed exposition and historical context. He really is very good at the historical-conspiracy thriller; he’s a skilled writer—much more so than Dan Brown, to whom he’s often compared—and a more dexterous plotter than many of his contemporaries. Fans of the Malone series will give this one an enthusiastic thumbs-up.