The Emperor’s Tomb

Cotton Malone Series Book 6

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The tomb of China's First Emperor, guarded by an underground army of terra cotta warriors, has remained sealed for 2200 years. Though it's regarded as one of the greatest archeological sites in the world, the Chinese government won't allow anyone to open it.

Why not?

That question is at the heart of a dilemma faced by former-Justice Department operative Cotton Malone, whose life is shattered when he receives an anonymous note carrying an unfamiliar web address. Logging on, he sees Cassiopeia Vitt, a woman who's saved his life on more than one occasion, being tortured at the hands of a mysterious man who has a single demand - "Bring me the artifact she's asked you to keep safe." One problem: Malone doesn't have a clue what the man is talking about, since Cassiopeia has left nothing with him. So begins Malone's most harrowing adventure to date-one that offers up astounding historical revelations, pits him against a ruthless ancient brotherhood, and sends him from Denmark to Belgium to Vietnam then on to China, a vast and mysterious land where danger lurks at every turn.



"Berry has a knack for conveying history without slowing down the page-turning suspense. Here, he offers keen insight into the issues dominating American politics and society—oil drilling and the importance of fuel in the world. His biggest-selling book yet; Berry has written another winner."
— Library Journal (starred review)


"This book is filled with excitement. Close your eyes and you can almost feel China’s First Emperor, Qin Shi’s presence. Like all books of this genre, suspend disbelief before entering The Emperor’s Tomb, but once inside, you’ll have a good time."
— Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates)


"The payoff in the end --- a goose-pimple–raising showdown in a remote monastery ---- is worth the wait."
— Publisher's Weekly


"A kidnapping, old wounds festering between Malone and a Russian agent-for-hire, a love interest, and some exciting plot twists make this book an ideal summer read."
— Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)


"Steve Berry is the modern master of the thriller form and his talents are on brilliant display in The Emperor's Tomb. Once again, a historical mystery is front and center with Berry's ever-reliable series hero Cotton Malone out to solve it . . . the wonder of Berry's storytelling lies in how much fun his books are to read. The Emperor's Tomb might be his best and most timely tale yet, a masterpiece of both style and structure."
— Providence-Journal


"Fast-paced, high-stakes action fills this intriguing adventure."
— Romantic Times


"An exhilarating tale that uses Chinese history to anchor action-packed escapades. Fast-paced . . . readers will relish the cat and mouse chase for the lamp as the mysterious Cassiopeia Vitt provides a delightful female counterpart to Cotton Malone. The climax is a great confrontational finish to a fabulous tale."
— The Mystery Gazette


"To read a tale by Steve Berry is to become an armchair world traveler and instant historian. That's because he takes his readers on globe-hopping, action-filled adventures in pursuit of the most fantastic objects from history, mixing myth with reality."
— The Sacramento Bee


"Mixing fact with fiction, Berry has provided an action-packed novel with all the elements of a good mystery thriller: abduction, torture, betrayal, a secret society, two high ranking officials and a tantalising secret which remains just out of the reader’s grasp. It is the latter which keeps the reader intrigued, trying to puzzle out what the significance of the lamp is. . . . The Emperor's Tomb will not fail to delight."
— Media/Culture Journal


"The Emperor's Tomb offers interesting details about Chinese history, from Mao's Cultural Revolution to China's early technological contributions to the world. And Berry interweaves these facts with an action-packed plot that keeps the story moving and entertaining. Even if one has not read the previous books in the series, the new novel is a worthwhile introduction."
— The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)


"Bullets fly in the first sentence, and action doesn't let up. Blending elements of Chinese history and culture with its present-day internal power struggles, this story lifts the veil on the secretive Chinese just enough for the reader to glimpse the world through their eyes."
— Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia)


"There is no pretense or guile in a Berry novel, just pulse-pounding action and adventure from beginning to end."
— Florida Times Union


"Berry has yet another action-packed adventure in store for Malone in The Emperor’s Tomb . . . The Emperor’s Tomb is both an exciting adventure story and an informative account of Chinese politics."


"Steve Berry has made a career out of uncovering lost artifacts and building them into fictional plots. The Emperor’s Tomb is another example but Berry surrounds central sleuth, Cotton Malone, with so many intriguing characters and fascinating titbits of real history that the formula always seems fresh. . . . This is one of Berry’s best."
— The Globe and Mail


"In a very crowded field, bestselling thriller writer Steve Berry has carved out his own turf for novels that mix history, politics and technology, along with larger-than-life characters and a hint of romance . . . a relentlessly paced page-turner, Berry's novels sometimes read like a mix of James Michener and Lee Child, but he manages to convey the history and local color he needs without slowing the momentum of the plot."
— The News-Times (Danbury, Connecticut)


"Steve Berry’s latest Malone adventure, his sixth, is layered with political intrigue and Asian history. The pace ramps up regularly, but the action never runs away with the story."
— The Chronicle Herald (Nova Scotia)


"Berry brands his books with Indiana Jones-type action amid world history to die for. Explore The Emperor's Tomb at your own risk. Bruising is guaranteed."
— Madison County Herald (Mississippi)


"In Berry's latest top-notch thriller, former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone once again finds himself in a tangled web of science, politics and ancient history. . . . the novel is filled with the history of Chinese technology and innovation, and explains why, despite the fact that Chinese technology was once a millennium ahead of European, it kept falling behind. The book's short scenes give it a rapid-fire, cinematic feel."


"In all of Berry's books the research is phenomenal. . . the Berry magic works (again) in creating a world of intrigue and excitement. The storyline builds to a creative climax as the forces of good and evil in China do battle, with the good guys assisted by Malone and company . . . Steve Berry has created a world adventurer in Cotton Malone, and his fans are loyal."
— Huffington Post


"If you’re not aboard the Steve Berry bandwagon yet, his new Cotton Malone thriller will be the book that makes you jump on it. Berry hits on all cylinders in ways that he has never done previously, combining fast-paced action with an extremely deep and detailed plot based on events that took place thousands of years ago. The result is a definitive page-turner that will not only satisfy and entertain readers but also educate them. . . . it’s a prime example of storytelling at its best."




"The Emperor's Tomb draws the reader into a fast-paced international adventure of historical discovery and political intrigue. The multi-layered conflict, and the richly drawn characters, make for an extraordinary and quite thrilling novel. The narrative leading up to exciting conclusion will have readers wondering how it will all play out."


"Filled with globe-hopping adventure, an incredibly convoluted plot, daring escapes, and dangerous adventure, fans of Steve Berry won't want to miss this story. The revelations of the tomb of the Emperor who left the the renowned terra cotta warriors are exciting and amazing to the reader. The power struggle and the hair-raising adventures will keep readers on the edge of their seat. This is a book is so fast-paced, it is nearly impossible to put down."


"A fast-paced political thriller, The Emperor’s Tomb by Steve Berry is the eighth Cotton Malone book... I found The Emperor’s Tomb to be highly engaging and entertaining and look forward to reading much more from this clever and brilliant author."
— Jennifer at


"I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading other Steve Berry books....I recommend The Emperor’s Tomb to anyone who enjoys a good easy-to-read suspense thriller."
— Julie P at


"One reason I find myself coming back to Berry’s works is the history he includes in his novels....If you have never read Steve Berry’s works, this novel would be a great place to start."
— Emily at Lemuria Bookstore Blog


"A page turner. I couldn’t set it down. I read it from cover to cover in less then 24 hours....If you’ve read any of Berry’s books or are just being introduced to him, I strongly recommend checking him out."
— Anne at


"Steve Berry has crafted a truly awesome character in Cotton Malone. The plotline was fun, filled with history and interesting tidbits. One can tell that Mr. Berry did some homework before penning this novel..."
— Giovanni Gelati on


"International intrigue, spies, Oil reserves, the tomb of China’s first emperor, child kidnappings; The Emperor’s Tomb by Steve Berry has it all in this fabulous read for the mystery and action loving readers out there."
— Baba on


"Berry has again delivered a classic Cotton Malone action thriller with exotic settings and loaded with historic facts. ….As always Berry fills his novels with meticulously researched details about Chinese history and culture and I couldn’t wait to finish the book just to read the author’s notes sorting out the fact from the fiction. Reading The Emperor’s Tomb was like visiting friends. The characters have become such a part of my reading world it was just catching up on their latest exploits."
— @mrneil98 on


"Steve Berry is one of my favorite popular authors, so I was delighted to be chosen to review The Emperor's Tomb. Steve writes for the pick-the-book-up-on-the-way-to-the-plane, mass-market audience and he turns out a book a year. Nonetheless, he does historical fiction with real flare and a pretty high degree of accuracy. Steve seems to particularly enjoy archeological/artistic mysteries and The Emperor's Tomb is no exception. Pick this one up - definitely worth a read!"


"I'll just come out and say it; I loved this book! It was my first time reading anything by Mr. Berry and I am now hooked. He intelligently combines history and suspense to take the reader on a trip through time and place. It is a singular book that can educate you without making you feel like a student and this book does that in a way that makes me want to learn much more about China and her history. I love a book that leaves you yearning for further knowledge."
— kaiminani on


"This is a marvelous read with wonderful descriptions of faraway lands and evil doings. I always appreciate his author’s notes in the back which explains fact from fiction. What I found fascinating was how much fact made up the story."
— debhoffman on


"One of the things I truly appreciate about Steve Berry's books, although they read as a fast-paced thriller, the history is fact-based, researched thoroughly, and I learn something new every time I read his books! To say I am amazed at the depth of history Mr. Berry included in the story line and in such a fashion that it flowed relatively seamlessly would be an understatement!"
— Stacy on


"After reading The Emperor's Tomb, I am hooked on Steve Berry. I just finished The Romanov Prophecy and The Charlemagne Pursuit. I finally found an author who doesnt have to rely on one main character, "Cotton Malone", to write a great story. His mix of History and Adventure makes you wonder what is fact and what is fiction."
— rbutti on


"Berry is a master of weaving historical fact into his fiction, and The Emperor's Tomb is no exception. I highly recommend this book to any lover of mysteries and/or thrillers. You don't need to have read the earlier entries in the Cotton Malone series to follow this one, but they're so good, why wouldn't you?"
— Tina Baich on


"I really loved the abundance of historical info on Chinese culture, which I find absolutely fascinating. Berry really captures the intriguing history and uses it as a rich backdrop for a modern political thriller. The Emperor's Tomb is exciting, informative and extremely entertaining."
— Kate on


"Filled with globe-hopping adventure, an incredibly convoluted plot, daring escapes, and dangerous adventure, fans of Mr. Berry won't want to miss this story. The revelations of the tomb of the Emperor who left the the renowned terra cotta warriors are exciting and amazing to the reader. The power struggle and the hair-raising adventures will keep readers on the edge of their seat. This is a book is so fast-paced, it is nearly impossible to put down."
— Leanne Davis on


"...a typical fast moving, deep-gut thrills of his action novels; to say anymore would ruin the actual book for any reader. Suffice it to say that you will not begrudge the time spent in Asian, European, & other venues."
— Barb & Sal on


"If your heart’s pounding a little faster, and your mind’s working overtime to figure out what’s going on, then you’re Steve Berry’s ideal reader. If your constitution’s on the weaker side, you’ll want to give this one a miss, because Mr Berry is perhaps the most relentless author I’ve come across of late, and like Chuck Norris, he’s a man you don’t want to mess with."
— Stephanie on


"....for those who love a historical, action/suspense book this is one to check out! The characters are all great and the twists and turns of the story will keep you on your toes. I never knew who to trust until the very end."
— Debbie on


"Berry skillfully weaves a complex story, putting history together with China’s modern day dilemma between capitalism and communism, along with the very relevant issue of oil supply and demand. All of this together might seem overwhelming, but Berry does an exceptional job keeping the book from being confusing and making sure everything stays interesting. I’m not sure how much longer Berry can keep Malone running around at this pace, but I’ll definitely be along for the ride as long as he does!"
— Swapna Krishna on


"....Berry seems to be coming into his element more and more with every new book—especially if the book involves his most popular character, Cotton Malone. It just seems that every new Cotton Malone adventure keeps getting better and better."
— Manny N. de los Reyes on





12:40 PM


Cotton Malone typed the Web address with trembling fingers. Like a phone that rings in the middle of the night, nothing about an anonymous message was ever good.

The note had arrived two hours ago, while he'd been out of his bookshop on an errand, but the employee who'd accepted the un¬marked envelope forgot to give it to him until a few minutes ago.

"The woman  didn't say it was urgent," she said in her defense. "What woman?"

"Chinese lady, dressed in a gorgeous Burberry skirt. She said to give it only to you." "She used my name?" "Twice."

Inside had been a folded sheet of gray vellum upon which was printed a Web address with a  dot- org suffix. He'd immediately climbed the four flights of stairs to his apartment above the bookshop and found his laptop.

He finished typing and waited while the screen blackened, then a new image appeared. A video display console indicated that a live feed was about to engage.

The communications link established.

A body appeared, lying on its back, arms above the head, ankles and wrists bound tight to what looked like a sheet of plywood. The person was angled so that the head was slightly beneath the feet. A towel wrapped the face, but it was clear the bound form was a woman.

"Mr. Malone." The voice was electronically altered, disguising every attribute of pitch and tone. "We've been waiting. Not in much of a hurry, are you? I have something for you to see."

A hooded figure appeared on the screen, holding a plastic bucket. He watched as water was poured onto the towel that wrapped the bound woman's face. Her body writhed as she struggled with her re¬straints.

He knew what was happening.

The liquid penetrated the towel and flowed unrestricted into her mouth and nose. At first a few gulps of air could be stolen-the throat constricted, inhaling little of the water-but that could be maintained only for a few seconds. Then the body's natural gag reflex would kick in and all control would be lost. The head was angled downward so grav¬ity could prolong the agony. It was like drowning without ever being submerged.

The man stopped pouring.

The woman continued to struggle with her restraints.

The technique dated back to the Inquisition. Highly favored since it left no marks, its main drawback was harshness-so intense that the victim would immediately admit to anything. Malone had actually ex¬perienced it once, years ago, while training to become a Magellan Billet agent. All recruits had to take their turn as part of survival school. His agony had been amplified by his dislike of confinement. The bondage, combined with the soaked towel, had created an unbearable claustro¬phobia. He recalled the public debate a few years ago as to whether wa¬terboarding was torture.

Damn right it was.

"Here's the purpose of my contact," the voice said.

The camera zoomed tight on the towel wrapping the woman's face. A hand entered the frame and wrenched the soaked cloth away, reveal¬ing Cassiopeia Vitt.

"Oh, no," Malone muttered.

Darts of fear pierced his skin. A light- headedness overtook him.

This can't be happening.

She blinked water from her eyes, spit more from her mouth, and gained her breath. "Don't give them a damn thing, Cotton. Nothing."

The soaked towel was slapped back across her face.

"That would not be smart," the computerized voice said.

"Certainly not for her."

"Can you hear me?" he said into the laptop's microphone.

"Of course."

"Is this necessary?"

"For you? I believe so. You're a man to be respected. Former Justice Department agent. Highly trained."

"I'm a bookseller."

The voice chuckled. "Don't insult my intelligence, or risk her life any further. I want you to clearly understand what's at stake."

"And you need to understand that I can kill you."

"By then, Ms. Vitt will be dead. So let's stop with the bravado. I want what she gave you."

He saw Cassiopeia renew her struggle against the restraints, her head whipping from side to side beneath the towel.

"Give him nothing, Cotton. I mean it. I gave that to you for safe¬keeping. Don't give it up."

More water was poured. Her protests stopped as she fought to breathe.

"Bring the item to Tivoli Gardens, at two pm, just outside the Chi¬nese pagoda. You'll be contacted. If you don't show-" The voice paused. "-I think you can imagine the consequences."

The connection was severed.

He sat back in the chair.

He hadn't seen Cassiopeia in more than a month. Hadn't spoken to her for two weeks. She'd said that she was headed out on a trip but, characteristically, offered no details. Their relationship was hardly one at all. Just an attraction that they both tacitly acknowledged. Strangely, Henrik Thorvaldsen's death had drawn them closer, and they'd spent a lot of time together in the weeks after their friend's funeral.

She was tough, smart, and gutsy.

But waterboarding?

He doubted if she'd ever experienced anything like that.

Seeing her on the screen tore at his gut. He suddenly realized that if anything happened to this woman his life would never be the same.

He had to find her.

But there was a problem.

She'd obviously been forced to do whatever was necessary in order to survive. This time, however, she may have bitten off more than she could ever chew.

She'd left nothing with him for safekeeping.

He had no clue what she, or her captor, was talking about.


Also in this series: