Steve Berry’s latest thriller, The Jefferson Key, revolves around a little known organization, the Commonwealth, which received letters of Marque from an early US president allowing them to act outside the law in order to aid the US. The organization has stretched the parameters of the letters to the point of breaking. The organization is run by four wealthy men who inherited their position in the Commonwealth from their fathers. The organization goes back nearly 200 years and is based on pirate principles. The US government has decided it’s had enough of the Commonwealth and has come after them. The Commonwealth is fighting back. As dead bodies begin piling up, the US President calls in Cotton Malone, a former CIA agent, and Cassiopeia Vitt, an independent operative, to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it.
Berry has given us a complex plot, complete with presidential assassination attempts, kidnappings, lots of dead bodies, a cipher, evil wealthy men, and what seems like a cast of thousands of bad guys. It was sometimes hard to tell one rogue agent from another. The book seemed overly long and a good edit would have done wonders for it.
That being said, the book is a fast read aided by the author’s penchant for breaking his chapters into small parcels, i.e., jumping from one set of characters to the next in rapid succession. Some readers, however, may be unable to resist stopping in mid sentence to check to see how many more pages he has to read before the book ends.
This outing wasn’t nearly as exciting a read nor as historically interesting and detailed as Berry’s previous book, The Emperor’s Tomb. That book took off from page one and was a page turner from there to the end. The Jefferson Key doesn’t live up to the readers’ expectations of being a thriller and a fast read from start to finish.