Author of the Month

Name: Steve Berry

First Novel:

Most Recent Book: The Emperor's Tomb

'The Emperorís Tomb is a masterpiece of intelligent, thriller writing which along the ways educates, enlightens the reader and most of all entertains from start to finish.'

For over two millennia the tomb of Chinaís first Emperor and the guarding terracotta warriors has lain undisturbed. Despite being one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world the Chinese government has always refused to allow anyone to open it up.

When former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone receives an anonymous note directing him to an unfamiliar website he witnesses his friend Cassiopeia Vitt being tortured by a man who orders Malone to deliver an artefact Vitt had left with him for safe keeping. Unfortunately though, Vitt hasnít left any artefacts with him.

Malone then begins an arduous trek across Europe and China, along the way confronting a sinister brotherhood, an explosive secret and a battle for global superiority.

Once again Steve Berry has struck gold with Cotton Malone.

There are many fine authors writing great thrillers set in modern times against a historical background or storyline. Some have faster-paced books, others have more detailed plots while some choose to educate the reader more than entertain them. My opinion - for what its worth - is that Berry ticks more boxes more frequently than any of his contemparies and is the best author in the genre bar none!

Malone is one of those reluctant heroes who never once hesitates to climb back into the saddle for one more adventure. A modern day hero trying to live a quiet life, he quickly transforms back into the role of secret agent. Vitt is a delight as a foil, accomplice and love interest. Tang, Pau Wen and Ni Yong are the three people battling for control over China and the role of the next Chinese Premier. Each is a worthy addition and all have different qualities which enhance the readerís experience. Tang is ruthless and brutal, Pau Wen is calculating and manipulative while Ni Yong is honest yet naÔve. Other characters from Maloneís past reappear with great influence but Iíll not spoil any of the twists by naming them.

The plot is a work of art and see-saws its way from adventure to explanation, giving frantic action and then a breather to gather your thoughts whilst more of the plot is laid out - before again hurtling you along its twisted path. There are surprises, reveals, whodunits and more to enjoy as the author flexes his considerable literary skill. No finer example of this is the fact that I now know ten times more about Chinese history than I did before I started the book, and Iím here raving about the book! If Steve Berry had been my history teacher I would have never missed a lesson.

The prose is tighter than the rope bridge which features in the prologue and is the mistress to Steve Berryís master. In conclusion, The Emperorís Tomb is a masterpiece of intelligent, thriller writing which along the ways educates, enlightens the reader and most of all entertains from start to finish.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
It has to thrill, no ifs-ands-or-buts about it. It also has to possess point of view of characters a reader cares about. Those two together give a story resonance, and resonance is what every tale needs.
2) Are you surprised by the diversity of the crime genre? Do you think crime readers are always open to different styles?
That's the great thing about the crime/thriller genre there are a hundred or more sub-genres that cover anything and everything. This wide diversity is what has sustained the genre over the past several centuries. Thrillers have been around for a long time and they aren't going anywhere.
3) Cotton Malone is a book dealer, why did you choose this career path for him after he left the Magellan Billet?
Books are a passion of mine. I have a house full of them. I also spend a lot of time in second-hand and rare bookshops all over the world. So when I created Cotton I decided to invest him with the same interest. That also made Cotton a little different from other thriller heros, and it's important that your characters be different.
4) Your books are most a melange of styles with historical details mixed with modern day intrigue and political machinations. Which aspect is A: easier to write and B: more rewarding?
They are both difficult to achieve. Mixing action with information is perhaps the greatest challenge writers in my genre face. You won't to avoid, at all costs, info dumps, where details are force fed to the reader. The trick is to blend the information seamlessly with the action so the reader never realizes he or she just learned something. I struggle with this balance everyday.
5) There are intimations in The Paris Vendetta that Malone will return to the Magellan Billet under Stephanie Nelle. Can you let us know if he will return to that life?
Cotton likes living in Copenhagen and running is bookshop, so that's where he'll stay.
6) Where does your inspiration come from as when I read and reviewed The Paris Vendetta I commented on the way you brought a new slant to a well worn subject?
I always want to bring a new slant to a subject. Nobody wants to copy or repeat what someone else has done. In The Paris Vendetta I dealt with Napoleon in a novel way. He was the greatest plunderer of all time. But what happened to all of that wealth? No one knows. I also used some concepts of power and finance that no one, to my knowledge, has ever incorporated into a thriller before. I think it's important for writers to try and do this. In The Emperor's Tomb --- that's a book about oil that has nothing to do with the Middle East.
7) As well as the Cotton Malone series you have written standalone novels. Do you prefer the familiarity of established characters as well as the freedom of writing a one off standalone?
I don't really have a favourite. Both stand alones and a serie are difficult to compose. A series is tough because you have to keep each book 'the same, but different.' There's a little help from the fact that you don't have to re-invent the entire wheel each book. Stand alones require a total creation of everything each time. Writing the Cotton Malone series was a challenge for me. I had to learn the skills necessary to craft each book. But I've enjoyed doing it. So far I have three stand alones (The Amber Room, The Romonov Prophecy, and The Third Secret) and 7 in the Malone series (The Templar Legacy, The Alexandria Link, The Venetian Betrayal, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Paris Vendetta, The Emperor's Tomb, and The Jefferson Key). For 2012 I'm going to add to the stand alones with a new one. Cotton's taking a year off, back in 2013.
8) It took you 12 years and 85 rejections before the first of your books were published. What is it you think kept you persevering when so many would have given up long before?
That little voice in every writer's head that tells us to write. It's strong and loud and when you write it hushes, when you don't it nags you to death. I ignored that voice for 10 years until I wrote my first word in 1990. During the next 12 years of rejection I quit three times, but the little voice always drove me back. I still have that voice to this day.
9) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
That's tough to say. Rarely is the movie as good as the book for the obvious reason that books have much more time and space to work with. I think The Client was an excellent adaptation of Grisham's novel. But Seven Days in May (the original from 1964) stands out to me as a good movie from a good book.
10) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?
The DaVinci Code. That book changed my life and lot of other writers' lives. We all owe it a debt