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The Jefferson Key: A Novel Hardcover – May 17, 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 507 customer reviews
Book 7 of 10 in the Cotton Malone Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Letter from Author Steve Berry
Cotton Malone is known for his overseas exploits. A former-Justice Department operative, who can't stay out of trouble, he's found adventures in all parts of Europe (The Templar Legacy, The Paris Vendetta), Central Asia (The Venetian Betrayal), Antarctica (The Charlemagne Pursuit), the Middle East (The Alexandria Link), and China (The Emperor's Tomb). But he's never had an American adventure.
Until now.

The Jefferson Key was great fun to research. My wife Elizabeth and I traveled to New York City; Washington, D.C.; Bath, North Carolina; Monticello; and Richmond, Virginia. Monticello was particularly interesting since the terrific novelist, Katherine Neville--author of The Eight and The Fire--played host. Katherine serves on the estate's board of directors and she led us on a behind-the-scenes tour that helped formulate a number of scenes that would later appear in the book. We spent a wonderful day there, wandering the halls and staircases, snapping pictures, checking out every nook and cranny. In Richmond, we stayed at The Jefferson, a grand hotel that also makes an appearance in the story.

Bath, North Carolina was similarly intriguing. Three hundred years ago, Bath was a hotbed for Atlantic pirates, a bustling port and a ship building center. Its location, on a quiet inlet of the Pamlico River, not far from open ocean, made it ideal for both. And though it's now a sleepy village of about 300 residents, delving into its colonial and pre-colonial past was exciting. After all, pirates are fascinating--but they don't match the Hollywood stereotype. The real thing is even better, and The Jefferson Key deals with the real thing.

The research for this novel spanned 18 months, which is normal for my books. Along the way, we uncovered a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson; concocted a mystery for Andrew Jackson; and created a centuries-old document envisioned by the Founding Fathers themselves. It was fun exploring American history, especially the Constitution, which forms a huge part of this plot. With every book there's a challenge to describe the story in as few words as possible. For this one, we came up with this: Four United States presidents have been assassinated--in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963--each murder seemingly unrelated. But what if those presidents were all killed for the same reason--a clause in the United States Constitution, contained within Article 1, Section 8--that would shock Americans.

Got you interested?
I hope so.
Enjoy The Jefferson Key.

Review

“One of the most spellbinding and ingenious openings in all of thrillerdom. The cast of characters is huge but every one of them is memorable. The action is intense and masterfully choreographed. As always with Steve Berry, you’re educated about significant things while your knuckles are turning white and the pages are flying. Easily Cotton Malone’s most epic, swashbuckling adventure.” —David Baldacci

"The Constitution. . . secret codes . . . loads of history. . . AND pirates! What else does anyone need? The Jefferson Key won't just haunt your nights--it'll haunt your life. Cotton Malone is coming back to the scariest place of all: Home." —Brad Meltzer

"THE JEFFERSON KEY starts with a bang and holds the reader in its grip until the last page. Fascinating American history, up-to-the-minute politics, pulse-pounding action. This is a story Mitch Rapp would love." —Vince Flynn
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (May 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345505514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345505514
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (507 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Coolfire VINE VOICE on 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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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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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