The Alexandria Link

Reviewed: February 2, 2010
By: Steve Berry
Publisher: Ballantine Books
512 pages, $12.99

Legend has it that the the Royal Library of Alexandria was started in the city named after Alexander the Great during the reign of Alexander’s Egyptian successors, the Ptolemaic dynasty, and lasted for hundreds of years until parts of it were accidentally burned during Julius Caesar’s invasion. Even then it survived in some form for centuries and is mentioned as late as 378 CE (or AD).

The conceit of this book, the further adventures of former spy and antique book dealer Cotton Malone, is that the Library was not entirely destroyed, but that its contents were smuggled away and hidden somewhere in the vastnesses of Saudi Arabia. Within its many volumes can be found the texts which prove that the Arabs and Israelis are arguing about the wrong chunk of the Middle East, that ancient Israel was not located where current scholarship and politics thinks it was.

This is a secret worth killing to keep hidden. The first death we know of comes in 1948, during the conflicts that gave birth to modern Israel. The killer was George Haddad, a Palestinian Arab who, later in life, becomes the Alexandria Link, the name given to the man who knows the location of the Library.

Moving to the present day, we pick up the tale of Cotton Malone, who really just wants to be left alone to run his bookstore.

Years earlier, when Malone was an agent of the American Magellan Billet agency, he had organized Haddad’s “death” and relocation to a new identity in England. Now, because he knows where Haddad is, Malone is targeted by several different agencies who want Haddad silenced forever. Malone’s son is kidnapped, his ex-wife is put in peril and his book shop in Copenhagen is fire bombed.

Most of the damage is caused by a man named Dominick Sabre, who is working for an international cartel called "Die Ordnung vom Goldenen Vlies" (The Order of the Golden Fleece). Under the leadership of one Alfred Hermann, an Austrian industrialist, the cartel hopes to foment unrest in the Middle East and profit by playing both sides against the middle.

Still more damage is caused by the Israeli secret service, which wants to prevent the discovery of the Library.

In one strand of the plot Malone has to rescue his son, keep his ex-wife out of danger, and track down the location of the Library.

Back in the States his former boss, Stephanie Nelle, plays a dangerous and potentially deadly political game with the assistance of Cassiopeia Vitt, an associate of Malone’s good friend, Henrik Thorvaldsen, in order to prevent a plot which is apparently aimed at the assassination of the US President.

There are many twists and turns in the plot of this novel and anyone who has enjoyed the work of Dan Brown will find that this is a much better treatment of similar themes.