Secret missions. Espionage. Murder. All these and much, much more are packed into the the opening scenes of Steve Berry's thriller novel, The Charlemagne Pursuit. With dizzying detail, Berry leads his reader along the the journey of the main character, Cotton Malone, as he seeks to find out what really happened to his father almost 40 years prior, when his father left on a mission for the navy and he and the rest of the crew was never heard from again. When Cotton has just obtained the classified file on the findings about the mission that his father died on, some mysterious people appear and attempt to steal it away. Clearly, he unearthed something that others do not want brought to light. Especially, as he later learns, the Navy. Soon after he has obtained the file, two twin women separately approach him about the information he possesses. These women's, Christal and Dorthea, father was also aboard the same final submarine mission as Cotton's father. They convince him that this was no ordinary mission but a secret joint project to find the original advanced civilization their grandfather was on the trail of before his death, a people referred to throughout history as the “Holy Ones”. Cotton remains skeptical of the whole matter but plays along because these women and their mother clearly possess information that he does not. While Cotton pursues the mystery of his father's death in Germany, his associate Stephanie, the head of the intelligence agency that he used to work for and a white house aide are trying to keep up with the destruction being wrought by the head of Naval Intelligence, a powerful man by the name of Langford Ramsey. Ramsey is a man who will do (and is doing) anything to keep his involvement in Cotton's father's death secret and keep his political reputation in tact.
Berry does a magnificent job of keeping control of a complicated plot, though at times it is a little too complicated for the average reader to follow. Where the DaVinci Code remained for the most part in a more simple alternative storyline in the more familiar religious history, Berry jumps right into the obscure (to the typical American) world of European history and Charlemagne. Because so many elements of that mystery are unfamiliar its easy to mix up similarly spelt names in German and or Latin which frequently appears throughout the text. But the depth of the detail also gives the story an interesting complexity which, thankfully, allows for each plot development to be surprising. Each character's role in the mystery is extremely complex and everyone is hiding something so you are constantly doubting who are the good guys and who are the bad. It is highly unlikely to be able to guess what is going to happen next. Overall, it is entertaining, exciting, and definitely worth a re-read to see all that you missed the first time around.