The Last Kingdom

Grand Central. (Cotton Malone, Bk. 17). Feb. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9781538720998. $29. THRILLER
Berry once again proves that history matters, skillfully crafting a fictional story around historical truths in this 17th Cotton Malone novel (following The Kaiser’s Web). This time the Justice Department agent–turned–antiquarian book dealer is searching for clues from 1886, the year when King Ludwig II of Bavaria was deposed. Eccentric almost to the point of madness, Ludwig searched for another kingdom to rule as he hid from the world, dying mysteriously shortly thereafter. Now the CIA, Germany, China, and a rogue band of ex-spies all hunt for the missing documents that could prove whether Ludwig found another country to rule before his death. Malone joins the hunt to determine if another monarch deeded Ludwig some land for his new empire. From clandestine meetings to code-crunching cipher wheels to secret compartments in antique desks that conceal what might be the “keys to the kingdom,” Malone and his protégé Luke must solve King Ludwig’s puzzle and reckon with the truth’s implications for global power dynamics.
VERDICT Berry is like a fine-tuned machine, melding historical fact and authentic locales within a complex fictional storyline. History enthusiasts will relish the intricate research behind the spy-versus-spy thriller, which challenges readers to consider historical what-ifs.
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