Customer Reviews: The Jefferson Key: A Novel
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VINE VOICEon May 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Steve Berry has done it again. The Jefferson Key is an outstanding read. This work a major sized industrial strength novel closely integrating intrigue, complexity, and history.

Starts right off with a fast dramatic setting involving President Andrew Jackson, simultaneously disclosing some fascinating historical facts which I expect are known by very few.

And then immediately we're taken into the present, and our hero, Cotton Malone, has screwed up big time in a major pickle. We're off on our fast moving adventure. No slack here. . .

This novel wraps itself around a complex multi-faceted plot involving multiple security agencies, interesting interplays between strong characters in addition to Cotton, such as rouge agent Jonathan Wyatt (who I happen to like), NIA chief Andrea Carbonnel, and Cassiopeia Vitt, with shifting loyalties, and a strong private organization, called the commonwealth, which derived its credentials from a privateer past and Article 1 Section 8 of our Constitution - the little known or understood Letters of Marque. I had sometimes wondered what that clause meant and was all about.

In fact, there is a great deal of fascinating historical tidbits closely integrated with the plot, demonstrating an enormous amount of relevant research done by the author which went into this writing. Another way of saying it, there is a wealth of interesting information in this book.

This is one of those works which one wished did not end, rich in intrigue, action, and fascinating historical facts integrated closely within the current action.
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on May 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Jefferson Key gets off to a strong start, first with the attempted assassination of Andrew Jackson, then with an attempt on the life of a modern-day President. Cotton Malone, a former Justice Department operative, is dispatched to bring down the Commonwealth, a covert band of privateers whose roots go back to the American Revolution.

Mixing historical fact with fictional fancy, Steve Berry delivers a complex, perhaps even convoluted, thriller. There are lots of characters and lots of government agencies and at times it's difficult to remember who's who. The story follows multiple viewpoints, often within the same chapter. As a result, the plot comes across as a bit choppy and occasionally bogs down.

The most enjoyable aspect of The Jefferson Key is its portrayal of pirate culture. No camp buccaneers here; Berry gives us a brutal yet organised band who lives by a strict set of agreed-upon articles.

This is the first Cotton Malone book I've read, and as thrillers go, I have to say it is just average. However, the real life history woven into the story was quite interesting.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
That Author Steve Berry has created here in an ingenious mix of history and fiction to tie together the plot line of this book.

Cotton Malone receives a request for help. He doesn't know why he's needed but he trusts the woman who is asking.

What unfolds here is an interesting and complex story of Governmental agencies working with and covertly against each other to solve a cipher that holds the key to a non Governmental group called the Commonwealth who was constitutionally enabled to act as Pirates that was authorized by George Washington. Giving them the ability to steal and disrupt other countries that are deemed enemies of the United States. However they have been using and abusing this loop hole for personal gain and not always acting on behalf of the United States.

The book through the fictional story line ties together the assassinations of four sitting Presidents Kennedy, Lincoln, McKinley, Jackson and fictional President Danny Daniels. Danny Daniels.

Berry will have you believing that almost all of the characters is or could be a suspect including the Presidents wife. It seems that almost everyone and every agency has something to gain or loose be the revealing the key to some secret documents.

The story line is complex and it difficult to figure out what the true motives of the characters until the end. This is an intense thriller that will keep you up late reading. The beginning of the book is like no other that i have read, it will lock you in right away and keep you reading all the way through to it's exciting conclusion.

This is the first Berry book I have read. Berry has produced several Cotton Malone books. As a reader I got a good feel for who the character Cotton Malone is from this book.

As I noted earlier , Berry mixes some non fictional history with fictional history. The last chapter Berry clears up what is non fictional history and what is fictional history and explains why he changed some minor facts to tie the story together. The only possible negative I can think of is that the reader is hit with a lot of characters and it can be hard to keep track of them only because the story and the motives of the characters are so complex. I'm not even sure if that's really a negative though.

The writing style is fluid, the editing is good if not great. There aren't many wasted words. The book flows from one chapter to the next

Very well done. Just about every superlative I can think of can be attached to this book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon May 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love Steve Berry's books and more than a few of them grace my bookshelves. However, I did not find his latest, The Jefferson Key, as interesting and compelling as The Emperor's Tomb (Cotton Malone). Worse though, this latest offering kept forcing me to put it down.

Now, I am not a squeamish person. I've attended autopsies and studied all kinds of gruesome diseases and watched operations and dealt with gallons of blood. This time, though, Steve really outdid himself with graphic descriptions of torture. When eyeballs started flying across the pages of the book, I had had enough. There is such a thing as too much and frankly, The Jefferson Key is simply not interesting enough to overcome the stomach-churning gore.

Give this one a miss.
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Nothing fascinates me more than ancient secrets, presidential cryptograms, ruined fortresses. These are the promises made by this book, which begins in spectacular fashion, with an attempted assassination of Andrew Jackson (and features a cameo by Davy Crockett, no less). There's a secret society of pirates, a lost document hidden via an ingenious puzzle, and lots of potential for a detective thriller along the lines of DaVinci Code or the great pirate treasure hunts of the past.

Unfortunately, this book is bound and determined to waste all of that by following around some special agents from top-secret special agencies, who all like to switch sides at the drop of a hat. I gather that this is "another adventure" for hero Cotton Malone. If he is always this bland, cliche, and thoroughly uninteresting, I have no desire to read his other adventures.

Also, I'm not a fan of some of the writing style. This thing breaks into a new scene every three paragraphs or so. I think this is intended to heighten the tension, but all it does is just drag stuff out, as we hop through literal minutes of various characters lives, waiting for them to either die, live, or move on to something else.

There is also an annoying habit.
Of ending every chapter.
With sentence fragments.
On individual lines.
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on June 19, 2011
Convoluted would best describe the latest Steve Berry. While I love fast moving plots, this lightning speed tome became aggravating in its frenetic pace. So many characters, so many points of view, an incredible amount of scene changing, made me want to skip the last half and get to the end already! If Mr. Berry wrote this with a screen play in mind, he would still have to slash many chapters.

While I loved the pirate/privateer back story, the characters are a bit like cut-out paper dolls - one dimensional. While I love the name Cotton Malone, the character had the depth of a flat tire.

So much action dulled my senses near the end...I'd grown too accustomed to the sound of gunfire. I can live with "not quite believable" and even flat out "outrageous" in fiction. It is, after all why I read fiction. But I found it hard to reason why so many federal agencies had to be involved, operatives covert and not so covert, coupled with abundant secrecies that didn't further the plot.

I really wanted to love this book...I found the premise so intriguing. But I feel like a spurned lover...denied the pleasure of a promised tryst.
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on August 31, 2011
While the story and conspiracy is good there are to many characters to keep track of and excessive back and forth between the 10 important characters in the story. It was hard to keep everyone straight and to develop any connection with names like Cotton and Cassiopia or some such. Then there is Knox, Hale, Wyatt, Daniels, Davis, Stephanie, Carbonell and Shirely. Just to busy.
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VINE VOICEon June 17, 2011
The premise is a stretch, but interesting in concept. But this is too much like a Roger Moore version of James Bond with too many over-the-top villains, and good guys who behave with incredulity. For example, at one point both the good guys and the bad guys know each need to urgently get into a museum and the good guys have the ability to get in on a phone call, but everyone waits until the museum opens for the tourists the following morning. The bad guy is first in line with the tourists, the good guys lollygag onto the scene a few minutes too late. That kind of stupidity is repeated, repeated and repeated.

As others have posted, the writing moves from one storyline to another with such short segments that it's irritating.

The Cotton Malone series is usually escapist fun; this was below the norm.
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on September 10, 2011
I wanted to like this book. The description sounded interesting: assassination attempts tied together with a clause in the Constitution, letters of marque, an undeciphered message based on a Jefferson cipher. However, the reality of the book is quite different. There is little to interest you in any of the characters. The one I felt the deepest concern for was the President's wife who is a very peripheral character. The pirate business and all the other intelligence agency operations were depicted with way too much graphic detail in my opinion. This book should have been written on the more intellectual side given its main theme: finding the key to the cipher that would allow a centuries-old document to be located and restore the letters of marque to a pirate group. Instead there is lots of unnecessary-to-the-plot graphic violence and gory descriptions of torture. This is not a book I will keep around. I was truly disappointed.
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on July 27, 2011
I like the premise but had to give up in frustration.

I understand that it's an accepted technique to end a chapter with some dramatic event, a "cliffhanger" so to speak, then switch to some other scene on the very next page to somewhat artificially accentuate the suspense. But really, Berry tends to do this after what seems to be only a page or two of narrative. (I was reading in on the Kindle; hard to tell how many actual pages.) You just start a new chapter, a character gets out of a car, somebody shoots at him and BANG; next chapter in a different locale with different characters. They have an exchange a page of dialogue, and one says something like "I've got something to show you." and BANG; next chapter with entirely different set of characters and scenario. (I'm exaggerating only a little, really!)

Too much switching between scenes involving too many different characters. Give me a protagonist to care about, maybe two, and I'm happy. This is precisely why I gave up on Stephen King way back when. After his early successes he started pounding out his 10 lb. epics, with dozens of characters and storylines.

This is all subjective, of course. Your mileage may vary.
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