The Alexandria Link
Cotton Malone Series Book 2
Barnes & Noble
Cotton Malone retired from the high-risk world of elite operatives for the U.S. Justice Department to lead the low-key life of a rare-book dealer. But his quiet existence is shattered when he receives an anonymous e-mail: “You have something I want. You’re the only person on earth who knows where to find it. Go get it. You have 72 hours. If I don’t hear from you, you will be childless.” His horrified ex-wife confirms that the threat is real: Their teenage son has been kidnapped. When Malone’s Copenhagen bookshop is burned to the ground, it becomes brutally clear that those responsible will stop at nothing to get what they want. And what they want is nothing less than the lost Library of Alexandria.
A cradle of ideas–historical, philosophical, literary, scientific, and religious–the Library of Alexandria was unparalleled in the world. But fifteen hundred years ago, it vanished into the mists of myth and legend–its vast bounty of wisdom coveted ever since by scholars, fortune hunters, and those who believe its untold secrets hold the key to ultimate power.
Now a cartel of wealthy international moguls, bent on altering the course of history, is desperate to breach the library’s hallowed halls–and only Malone possesses the information they need to succeed. At stake is an explosive ancient document with the potential not only to change the destiny of the Middle East but to shake the world’s three major religions to their very foundations.
Pursued by a lethal mercenary, Malone crosses the globe in search of answers. His quest will lead him to England and Portugal, even to the highest levels of American government–and the shattering outcome, deep in the Sinai desert, will have worldwide repercussions.
"For sheer readability, he approaches Diane Setterfield, whose Thirteenth Tale offers a more genteel, Brontë-ish spin on the search-for-buried-secrets format . . . (Berry's) books do hurtle, piling on the obligatory layers of mystery and bursts of violence, occasionally spicing them up with a museum-quality clue."
— New York Times
"Fast-moving . . . nonstop action."
— Boston Sunday Globe
"The Alexandria Link contains all elements of suspense known in Berry's writings that guaranteed him an advanced seat in the world of suspense."
"When it comes to ancient mysteries and conspiracies, Steve Berry is tops. Wow!"
— Women's Day
"Malone, a hero with a personal stake in the proceedings, is a welcome respite from the cold, calculating superspies who litter the genre."
— Entertainment Weekly
"Fast action and wild plotting . . ."
— Kirkus Reviews
"Steve Berry takes on history with a twist."
— Courier Mail (Australia)
"The Alexandria Link is Cotton Malone's story. Berry has created a marketable hero, a cross between a bookish Indiana Jones and a more sympathetic Jason Bourne, who should keep fans eager for the next adventure."
— St. Petersburg Times
"For those in need of a comparison, think Jack Bauer and the hit television series "24," with twists, turns, schemes and counterschemes manifesting themselves by the second . . . hey, Berry's on a roll. And Hollywood must be paying attention."
— Los Angeles Times
"As in (The Templar Legacy) contemporary issues and page-turning thriller elements combine with history in shocking ways. Fans of this type of thriller and readers who have already discovered Steve Berry will not be disappointed."
— Library Journal
". . . the plot is off and running across the globe, the story driven by a series of short chapters, each acting as a little time bomb. . . . Berry make's intriguing use of ancient history, and the action certainly zooms along. Fun reading . . ."
"There are so many double crosses it practically takes a scorecard to keep track of them. Breathlessly paced, The Alexandria Link is a wonderful dramatic ride."
"Bestselling author Steve Berry re-draws the map of the Middle East in his own audacious style in this tale of a search for the missing library of Alexandria . . . The action, of course, is global and hair-raising. What a great ride. . . . Berry's hallmark is to take an historical mystery and then turn conventional theory on its head. . . . Every (book) is a winner. . ."
— Kingston Observer
"His best yet . . . better than (Dan) Brown, by far."
— Mystery Loves Company (Baltimore)
"Berry's riveting quest to locate a hidden treasure and uncover a plot that threatens national security is packed with nonstop action. Four and half out of five stars."
— Romantic Times
"The Alexandria Link does the genre proud, cramming more action into 462 pages than any reader has a right to expect. . . . For connoisseurs who enjoy their history lessons served fast with a heaping side of gunplay, this is the new standard."
— Nashville Scene
"Gripping . . . Both a wonderful suspense/action yarn and a controversial political work, The Alexandria Link is satisfying and surprising."
— Nashville City Paper
"A complicated and exciting plot, with double-and triple-crosses galore, non-stop action, a smattering of history, . . ."
— Daily Camera (Boulder, Colorado)
"As with all of Berry's books, the action is non-stop and the research most plausible. Fact and fiction are mixed together to make the reader believe it could all be true. Just remember - it's only a novel."
— Australian Broadcasting Corporation
"Berry's deft literary hand manages a smooth mix of historical speculation and fact, solidifying his status as the heir apparent to Dan Brown. In the crowded mystic thriller field, he rises above the rest and stands alone."
— Providence Sunday Journal
". . . an engaging story, even fascinating in parts . . . entertaining, especially for readers intrigued by the historical subject matter and its potential applications for modern day politics, religion, and society."
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Steve Berry most certainly is not a writer on the rise, he is THERE already, artfully prodding the little history geek conspiracist in all of us. (His) works are true adventure novels and tremendous fun to read."
— Murder and Mayhem (Australia)
"Reading The Alexandria Link, this reviewer wonders who wrote the 10 Commandments."
— Bangkok Post (Thailand)
"Fast-paced and easy to read . . .Berry's novel is an entertaining addition to a growing genre."
— Knoxville News-Sentinel
"For sheer speculative 'what if' thrills, controversy and sensational erudition, Berry's engrossing historical thriller rivals that other conspiracy bestseller (which we will leave unnamed). At the heart of this book is a tantalising secret (hidden among the scrolls in the Alexandria Library, which I will keep secret) that can redraw the map of the Middle East."
— The Hindu
"Berry is at his absolute best here, incorporating elements of the thriller genre with classic mystery fare, and producing a provocative, enthralling novel that will captivate readers across all genres. Meticulously researched and exquisitely plotted, The Alexandria Link is a must read."
FROM THE BLOG WORLD
"Berry keeps writing and writing great mystery thrillers . . . The Alexandria Link is one fast moving bullet train and does not stop for any refreshments or intermission, so you had better be prepared for a lost day or two when you climb onto this high octane and well conceived and researched thriller."
"A great every man character---following Malone through this adventure is a real treat. Extreme pacing and a tight plot make this a hell of a great ride. Berry is the master of the high concept thriller."
"Steve Berry has fast become the author most likely to give Dan Brown a run for his audience. . . The Alexandria Link is his best novel yet . . . For readers who like a mystery based on historical facts this is a monumental fiction experience. Berry has created a whirlwind adventure that will keep you guessing and gasping until the very end of his book. If you liked Berry's other books, well you are going to be blown away by this one. And if you have never read any of Berry's work you are going to fast become a Berry addict. This is one of the big adventure novels of 2007 and Steve Berry is one of the year's brightest writers."
"A good time is to be had. . . .This could easily become the next Bourne-esque film franchise."
"The reader needs a score card to sort out the goodies and the baddies in Steve Berry's thrilling, daring new novel, The Alexandria Link. . . . the settings are vivid and very real. . . . the pace is fast and sure, as the lines between reality and fiction intertwine inexorably toward a conclusion. The Alexandria Link is a great read, one that will keep the reader ruminating for some time to come."
"A book that will keep you turning pages when you should be asleep. Berry spins a great tale and his details tell you he's been to the places that he's describing. Another great read!"
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4, THE PRESENT
Cotton Malone stared straight into the face of trouble. Outside his bookshop's open front door stood his ex-wife, the last person on earth he'd expected to see. He quickly registered panic in her tired eyes, remembered the pounding that had awoken him a few minutes before, and instantly thought of his son.
"Where's Gary?" he asked.
"You son of a bitch. They took him. Because of you. They took him." She lunged forward, her closed fists crashing down onto his shoulders. "You sorry son of a bitch." He grabbed her wrists and stopped the attack as she started crying. "I left you because of this. I thought this kind of thing was over."
"Who took Gary?" More sobs were his answer. He kept hold of her arms. "Pam. Listen to me. Who took Gary?"
She stared at him. "How the hell am I supposed to know?"
"What are you doing here? Why didn't you go to the police?"
"Because they said not to. They said if I went anywhere near the police, Gary was dead. They said they would know, and I believed them."
She wrenched her arms free, her face flooded with anger. "I don't know. All they said was for me to wait two days, then come here and give you this." She rummaged through her shoulder bag and produced a phone. Tears continued to rain down her cheeks. "They said for you to go online and open your e-mail."
Had he heard right? Go online and open your e-mail?
He flipped open the phone and checked the frequency. Enough megahertz to make it world-capable. Which made him wonder. Suddenly he felt vulnerable. Højbro Plads was quiet. At this late hour no one roamed the city square.
His senses came alive.
"Get inside." And he yanked her into the shop and closed the door. He hadn't switched on any lights.
"What is it?" she asked, her voice shredded by fear.
He faced her. "I don't know, Pam. You tell me. Our son has apparently been taken by God-knows-who, and you wait two days before telling a soul about it? That didn't strike you as insane?"
"I wasn't going to jeopardize his life."
"And I would? How have I ever done that?"
"By being you," she said in a frigid tone, and he instantly recalled why he no longer lived with her.
A thought occurred to him. She'd never been to Denmark. "How did you find me?"
"They told me."
"Who the hell is they?"
"I don't know, Cotton. Two men. Only one did the talking. Tall, dark-haired, flat face."
"How would I know?"
"How did he speak?"
She seemed to catch hold of herself. "No. Not American. They had accents. European."
He motioned with the phone. "What am I supposed to do with this?"
"He said to open your e-mail and it would be explained."
She glanced nervously around at the shelves cast in shadows. "Upstairs, right?"
Gary would have told her he lived over the store. He certainly hadn't. They'd spoken only once since he'd retired from the Justice Department and left Georgia last year, and that had been two months back, in August, when he'd brought Gary home after their summer visit.
She'd coldly told him that Gary was not his natural son. Instead the boy was the product of an affair from sixteen years ago, her response to his own infidelity. He'd wrestled with that demon ever since and had not, as yet, come to terms with its implications. One thing he'd decided at the time-he had no intention of ever speaking to Pam Malone again. Whatever needed to be said would be said between him and Gary.
But things seemed to have changed.
"Yeah," he said. "Upstairs."
They entered his apartment, and he sat at the desk. He switched on his laptop and waited for the programs to boot. Pam had finally grabbed hold of her emotions. She was like that.
Her moods ran in waves. Soaring highs and cavernous lows. She was a lawyer, like him, but where he'd worked for the government, she handled high-stakes trials for Fortune 500 companies that could afford to pay her firm's impressive fees. When she'd first gone to law school he'd thought the decision a reflection of him, a way for them to share a life together.
Later he'd learned it was a way for her to gain independence.
That was Pam.
The laptop was ready. He accessed his mailbox.
Pam rushed toward him. "What do you mean? He said to open your e-mail."
"That was two days ago. And by the way, how did you get here?"
"They had a ticket, already bought."
He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Are you nuts? What you did was give them a two-day head start."
"Don't you think I know that?" she yelled. "You think I'm a complete idiot? They told me my phones were tapped and I was being watched. If I varied from their instructions, even a little, Gary was dead. They showed me a picture." She caught herself and tears flowed anew.
"His eyes . . . oh, his eyes." She broke down again. "He was scared."
His chest throbbed and his temples burned. He'd intentionally left behind a life of daily danger to find something new. Had that life now hunted him down? He grabbed the edge of the desk. It would do no good for both of them to fall apart. If whoever they were wanted Gary dead, then he was already. No. Gary was a bargaining chip-a way to apparently gain his undivided attention.
The laptop dinged.
His gaze shot to the screen's lower-right corner: receiving mail. Then he saw greetings appear on the from line and your son's life noted as the subject. He maneuvered the cursor and opened the e-mail.
YOU HAVE SOMETHING I WANT. THE ALEXANDRIA LINK. YOU HID IT AND YOU'RE THE ONLY PERSON ON EARTH WHO KNOWS WHERE TO FIND IT. GO GET IT. YOU HAVE 72 HOURS. WHEN YOU HAVE IT, HIT THE NUMBER 2 BUTTON ON THE PHONE. IF I DON'T HEAR FROM YOU AT THE END OF 72 HOURS, YOU WILL BE CHILDLESS. IF DURING THAT TIME YOU SCREW WITH ME, YOUR SON WILL LOSE A VITAL APPENDAGE. 72 HOURS. FIND IT AND WE'LL TRADE.
Pam was standing behind him. "What's the Alexandria Link?"
He said nothing. He couldn't. He was indeed the only person on earth who knew, and he'd given his word.
"Whoever sent that message knows all about it. What is it?"
He stared at the screen and knew there'd be no way to trace the message. The sender, like himself, surely knew how to use black holes-computer servers that randomly routed e-mails through an electronic maze. Not impossible to follow, but difficult.
He stood from the chair and ran a hand through his hair. He'd meant to get a haircut yesterday. He worked the sleep from his shoulders and sucked a few deep breaths. He'd earlier slipped on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt that hung open, exposing a gray undershirt, and he was suddenly chilled by fear.
"Pam, shut up. I have to think. You're not helping."
"I'm not helping? What the-"
The cell phone rang. Pam lunged for it, but he cut her off and said, "Leave it."
"What do you mean? It could be Gary."
He scooped up the phone after the third ring and pushed talk.
"Took long enough," the male voice said in his ear. He caught a Dutch accent. "And please, no if-you-hurt-that-boy-I'm-going-to-kill-you bra- vado. Neither one of us has the time. Your seventy-two hours have already started."
Malone stayed silent, but he recalled something he learned long ago. Never let the other side set the bargain. "Stick it up your ass. I'm not going anywhere."
"You take a lot of risks with your son's life."
"I see Gary. I talk to him. Then, I go."
"Take a look outside."
He rushed to the window. Four stories down Højbro Plads was still quiet, except for two figures standing on the far side of the cobbled expanse.
Both silhouettes shouldered weapons.
"Don't think so," the voice said in his ear.
Two projectiles shot through the night and obliterated the windows below him.
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