The Columbus Affair

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He was called by many names—Columb, Colom, Colón—but we know him as Christopher Columbus. Many questions about him exist. Where was he born, raised, and educated. Where he died. How he discovered the New World.

None have ever been properly answered.

And then there is the greatest secret of all.

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Tom Sagan has written hard-hitting articles from hot spots around the world. But when a controversial report from a war-torn region is exposed as a fraud, his professional reputation crashes and burns. Now he lives in virtual exile—haunted by bad decisions and the shocking truth he can never prove: that his downfall was a deliberate act of sabotage by an unknown enemy. But before Sagan can end his torment with the squeeze of a trigger, fate intervenes in the form of an enigmatic stranger with a request that cannot be ignored.

Zachariah Simon has the look of a scholar, the soul of a scoundrel, and the zeal of a fanatic. He also has Tom Sagan’s estranged daughter at his mercy. Simon desperately wants something only Sagan can supply, the key to a 500 year-old mystery—a treasure with explosive political significance in the modern world. For both Simon and Sagan the stakes are high, the goal intensely personal, the consequences of opposing the other potentially catastrophic. On a perilous quest from Florida to Vienna to Prague and finally to the mountains of Jamaica, the two men square off in a dangerous game. Along the way, both of their lives will forever be altered---and everything we know about Christopher Columbus will change.



"Steve Berry's latest novel, The Columbus Affair, is a stand-alone thrill ride and his best book to date."
— The Washington Post


"Thriller readers — from fans of Dan Brown's ciphers to Clive Cussler's fantastic adventures — will savor this intoxicating amalgam of Taíno (indigenous) myth, Maroon legend, the history of Jews in Jamaica, the peregrinations of Temple treasures following Titus's sacking of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and Columbus's mysterious deeds in the West Indies. Sure to be another best seller."
— Library Journal


"(Steve Berry) once again magically blurs the line between fact and fiction, infusing his potboiler with a perfect blend of historical speculation and contemporary adventure that would make Indiana Jones proud and helps raise The Columbus Affair into the rarified air of early Robert Ludlum. There is simply no one today writing better or more satisfying thrillers than Berry and this one is not to be missed."
— Providence-Journal


"Historical secrets, grand conspiracies, and action-packed story lines. Steve Berry excels at such things."
— Mystery Tribune


"Fiercely imaginative, Berry serves up a slick thrill ride that will challenge all preconceptions about the discovery of America."
— The Argus (Sussex, England)


"Traveling from Florida to Prague and ending in the caves deep within Jamaica, The Columbus Affair is an exhilarating thrill ride that never lets up. Fans of Steve Berry’s “Cotton Malone” series will also love the fact that the Magellan Billet and his former-boss, Stephanie Nelle, make an appearance toward the end of the novel in a moment that ties together the world Berry has created."
— Las Vegas Review-Journal


"Berry truly writes like a historian, including obscure facts and details to effectively reinforce what he purports as truth within his novels. He is also gifted with the uncanny ability to suck the reader into the story, and it’s these characteristics that set his books apart. How much is truth and how much fiction – are questions readers of The Columbus Affair will repeatedly ask. Bottom line -- The Columbus Affair is somewhat akin to bungee jumping into a hurricane – wild, untamed, free-flowing, and at times, quite surprising. It’s a great read, a true nail-biter that will keep readers fully engaged until the final page is turned."
— WGCU (NPR) (Fort Myers, Florida)


"Tightly interwoven with the main plot is Berry’s trademark infusion of history into an exciting story, this time Jewish and Jamaican history. . . . (He) creates a spellbinding and timely plot that illuminates history about people and events that we think we know, but don’t."
— Free Lance-Star


"This being a Berry production, every alliance is of course fragile, and the bonds among even the heartiest teammates are up for grabs. So is the ultimate goal, for the author gradually reveals that Columbus’ lost gold mine is only chicken feed compared to the real bonanza at stake. Less The Da Vinci Code than American Treasure. Think of Nicolas Cage, tearing up the scenery as Tom Sagan, to the background beat of popping corn and you’re halfway there."
— Kirkus Reviews


"Intriguing characters and plot twists at every turn will have you hooked."


"The many readers who eagerly followed the adventures of Cotton Malone, Berry’s beloved action hero, are in for a treat. The Columbus Affair, Berry’s first stand-alone thriller since 2005, is an arresting tour de force . . . The reader is held spellbound as a series of cinematic episodes of heroism, intrigue, and betrayal lead to one surprise after another until the ultimate scene of … Well! It would be unfair to rob the reader of the pleasure of discovering the remarkable ending."
— The Jewish Journal


"I feel like I need to own up to the fact that Steve Berry is one of my favorite authors. But each book, no matter who the author, must stand on its own merits, and The Columbus Affair does just that very thing. It’s another bestseller for Steve Berry, no question at all."
— U.S. Daily Review


"The stakes are high as the conspiracy unwinds slowly in this nail-biting story. The history of Columbus is fascinating, and much of his life both before and after 1492 will seem new and surprising to the reader. Berry is a master at blending fact and fiction, and he provides a note at the end detailing the differences in the story. In so doing, he also reveals the depth of research he carried out to make the pieces of the puzzle come together."
— Arizona Daily Star


"In true form to his past books Steve Berry is able to push the boundaries of historical fiction, by bringing to light some of the mystery behind Columbus, but keeping the action at the highest level. Do I dare say that Cotton Malone has met his match in Tom Sagan, you bet I will. The Columbus Affair is an instant classic."
— Suspense Magazine


"An entertaining, alternate history . . . pure makeup, gloriously wrapped in a thriller plot."
— Denver Post


"Engrossing stand-alone thriller. . . Berry's imaginative mix of Judaic and Columbus lore, as well as Tom’s transformation from suicidal flop to heroic everyman, should please his many fans."
— Publisher's Weekly


"Tom Sagan is a complex character, and his quest for answers and redemption makes The Columbus Affair sing."
— The Mainichi (Japan)


"Plot twists reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the novels of Dan Brown ensue, taking the reader to Vienna, Prague, and finally Jamaica, making The Columbus Affair a page-turning novel that's filled with historical truths -- and plenty of speculation when it comes to the origins of an explorer who is at the same time celebrated and hated."
— Huntington News


"It’s something different for Cotton Malone fans—something different and also something very good. Berry’s books have been translated into 40 languages and sold in 51 countries; don’t be surprised if his latest sweeps still farther around the globe."
— Booklist


"Fans of Malone will quickly find that the author’s trademark literary tools --- historical mysteries, unforgettable characters, and action, action, action --- are present here in spades. . . . History was never this interesting when I was in school, but then history never connected the line between Christopher Columbus and… but that would be telling. I don’t want to give away any part of this exquisite plot, but rest assured that Berry takes on one of antiquity’s greatest legends/mysteries and outdoes his previous efforts once again."




"Berry's latest wraps heritage with history. His exploration of Columbus' personal past is immensely interesting and elucidates the puzzles that still persevere. In parallel, he follows the path of the Sephardi to Spain, to Jamaica, and to his protagonist. The combination produces a tale of adventure, mystery, and suspense that keeps the reader enthralled."


"Not since The Da Vinci Code have I read a thriller woven so deftly between past and present as The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry. The pages flew by, each of the novel’s many sub-threads building, winding, then dissolving into the larger tapestry of the story. For those fans of thrilling adventures grounded in history, spiced with speculation, The Columbus Affair is one to remember."
— Rewriting Amanda


"I've always enjoyed Berry's books, but this one has pushed a new direction in exploring a possible explanation for who Columbus may have been. Like most of the author's books, there is a mix of history and fiction, but as always, the result is truly entertaining."


"Writers who are super-popular and rack up No. 1 best-sellers often have a bevy of jealous detractors, and Steve Berry is no different. It’s impossible not to see any of his 11 novels prominently displayed at every airport bookstore or supermarket checkout line, right next to the Danielle Steeles and the Clive Cusslers. But Berry is good. Really good. . . . If you have a love for history, and any aspect of Columbus or Jamaica, you’re sure to enjoy The Columbus Affair, another excellent entry in Berry’s oeuvre."


"This is an exciting, action-packed, over-the-top-of-the-Wailing Wall thriller that readers will struggle to put down."


"There is great suspense, betrayal, lies, murders, and all of the other highlights that mark the Berry books. I miss Cotton Malone somewhat, but this protagonist and his angst is different and appealing as an everyman thrust into a situation beyond his imagining, and almost beyond his control. Read it; you'll like it."
— and


"Skipping between the present-day quest to the past adventures of Columbus makes for enlightening historical reading, as well as speculative insights and conclusions. . . . New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry's historical research is extensive and his ability to then write an absorbing and compelling story is exemplary. One of the best thrillers I've read this year!"


"Historical secrets, grand conspiracies, and action-packed story lines. Steve Berry excels at such things."
— Crimespace


"The history is presented in an intersting way, whether it be Columbus and his Hebrew translator, or the Maroons and Jews of Jamaica, or the Golem stories of Austria. The author gives an afterword and most of the history presented in the book was what actually happened. This book kept me hooked from start to finish."
— Lunch Network





Tom Sagan gripped the gun. He'd thought about this moment for the past year, debating the pros and cons, finally deciding that one pro outweighed all cons.

He simply did not want to live any longer.

He'd once been an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, knocking down a solid six figure salary, his marquee by-line generating one front page, above-the-fold story after another. He'd worked all over the world-Sarajevo, Beijing, Johannesburg, Belgrade, and Moscow. But the Middle East became his specialty, a place he came to know intimately, where his reputation had been forged. His confidential files were once filled with hundreds of willing sources, people who knew he'd protect them at all costs. He'd proved that when he spent eleven days in a D.C. jail for failing to reveal his source on a story about a corrupt Pennsylvania congressman.

That man had gone to prison.

Tom had received his third Pulitzer nomination.

There were twenty-one awarded categories. One was for 'distinguished investigative reporting by an individual or team, reported as a single newspaper article or a series.' Winners received a certificate, $10,000, and the ability to add three precious words-Pulitzer Prize winner-to their name.

He won his.

But they took it back.

Which seemed the story of his life.

Everything had been taken back.

His career, his reputation, his credibility, even his self respect. In the end he became a failure as a son, a father, a husband, a reporter, and a friend. A few weeks ago he'd charted that spiral on a pad, identifying that it all started when he was twenty-five, fresh out of the University of Florida, top third in his class, a journalism degree in hand.

Then his father disowned him.

Abiram Sagan had been unrelenting.

"We all make choices. Good. Bad. Indifferent. You're a grown man, Tom, and have made yours. Now I have to make mine."

And that he had.

On that same pad he'd jotted down the highs and lows. Some from before, as editor of his high school paper and campus reporter at college. Most after. His rise from a news assistant, to staff reporter, to senior international correspondent. The awards. Accolades. Respect from his peers. How had one observer described his style? Wide-ranging and prescient reporting conducted at great personal risk.

Then, his divorce.

The estrangement from his only child. Poor investment decisions. Even poorer life decisions.

Finally, his firing.

Eight years ago.

And the seemingly nothing life since.

Most of his friends were gone. But that was as much his fault as theirs. As his personal depression had deepened he'd withdrawn into himself. Amazing he hadn't turned to alcohol or drugs, but neither had ever appealed to him.

Self pity was his intoxicant.

He stared around at the house's interior.

He'd decided to die, here, in his parents' home. Fitting, in some morbid way. Thick layers of dust and a musty smell reminded him that for three years the rooms had sat empty. He'd kept the utilities on, paid the meager taxes, and had the lawn cut just enough so the neighbors wouldn't complain. Earlier, he'd noticed that the sprawling mulberry tree out front needed trimming, the picket fence painting.

He hated it here. Too many ghosts.

He walked the rooms, remembering happier days. In the kitchen he could still see jars of his mother's jam that once lined the windowsill. The thought of her brought a wave of an unusual joy that quickly faded.

He should write a note and explain himself, blame somebody or something. But to who? Or what? Nobody would believe him if he told them the truth. Unfortunately, just like eight years ago, there was no one to blame but himself.

Would anyone even care he was gone?

Certainly not his daughter. He'd not spoken to her in two years.

His literary agent? Maybe. She'd made a lot of money off his ghostwriting. He'd been shocked to learn how many so-called bestselling fiction writers could not write a word. What had one critic said at the time of his downfall? Journalist Sagan seems to have a promising career ahead of him writing fiction.


But he'd actually taken that advice.

He wondered-how does one explain taking their own life? It's, by definition, an irrational act. Which, by definition, defies explanation. Hopefully, somebody would bury him. He had plenty of money in the bank, more than enough for a respectable funeral.

What would it be like to be dead?

Are you aware? Can you hear? See? Smell? Or is simply an eternal blackness. No thoughts. No feeling.

Nothing at all.

He walked back toward the front of the house.

Outside was a glorious March day, the noon time sun bright. Florida was truly blessed with some terrific weather. It was one reason he'd moved back from California after his firing. He'd miss the feel of a warm sun on a pleasant summer's day.

He stopped in the open archway and stared at the parlor. That was what his mother had always called the room. This was where his parents had gathered on Shabbat. Where Abiram read from the Torah. The place where Yom Kippur and Holy Days had been celebrated. He recalled the sight of the pewter menorah on the far table burning. His parents had been devout Jews. After his bar mitzvah he too had first read from the Torah, standing before the twelve-paned windows, framed out by damask curtains his mother had taken months to sew. She'd been talented with her hands, a lovely woman, universally adored. He missed her. She died six years before Abiram, who'd now been gone three.

Time to end this.

He studied the gun, a pistol bought a few months before at an Orlando gun show.

He sat on the sofa.

Clouds of dust rose, then settled.

He recalled Abiram's lecture about the birds and the bees as he'd sat in the same spot. He'd been, what, twelve?

Thirty-three years ago.

But it seemed like last week.

As usual, the explanations had been rough and concise.

"Do you understand?" Abiram asked him. "It's important that you do."

"I don't like girls."

"You will. So don't forget what I said."

Women. Another failure. He'd had precious few relationships as a young man, marrying Michele, the first girl who'd shown serious interest in him. But the marriage ended after his firing, and there'd been no more women since the downfall. Michele had taken a toll on him, in more ways than just financially.

"Maybe I'll get to see her soon too," he muttered.

His ex-wife had died two years ago in a car crash.

That was last time he and his daughter spoke, her words loud and clear. Get out. She would not want you here.

And he'd left the funeral.

He stared again at the gun, his finger on the trigger. He steeled himself, grabbed a breath, and nestled the barrel to his temple. He was left handed, like nearly every Sagan. His uncle, a former-professional baseball player, had told him as a child that if he could learn to throw a curve ball he'd make a fortune in the major leagues. Talented left handers were rare. But he'd failed at sports, too.

He brought the barrel to his temple.

The metal touched his skin.

He closed his eyes and tightened his finger on the trigger, imagining how his obituary would start. Tuesday, March 5th, former investigative journalist, Tom Sagan, took his own life at his parents' home in Mount Dora, Florida.

A little more pressure and-

Rap. Rap. Rap.

He opened his eyes.

A man stood outside the front window, close enough to the panes for Tom to see the face-older than himself, clean-cut, distinguished-and the man's right hand.

Which held a photograph, pressed to the glass.

He focused on the image of a young woman lying down, arms and feet extended.

As if bound.

He knew the face.

His daughter.