by Steve Berry

Ballentine Books, $26.00, 436 pages

A retired American agent, Cotton Malone, is drawn into a dangerous mission when a former colleague needs help. She is trying to find the kidnapped son of a Russian scientist who lives and works in China. The Russians want the scientist captured or dead, two factions of Chinese politicians want his discovery regarding precious oil, and the Americans, also interested in oil, are working to save him and his son. The situation impels the principals from Belgium to China, where they are in constant danger. Malone is not sure he can trust the Russian they are working with, and has doubts about the Chinese expatriate that accompanies them on their journey.

Steve Berry has produced a significant body of work sold all over the world and is well known for his mysteries involving historic sites and artifacts. The Emperor’s Tomb is no exception. His research is impressive, as he melds fiction and fact into best-selling books.

The descriptions of exotic locales and their histories is vivid and interesting. The book has a map in the front that shows where the characters are travelling, always a welcome feature. The story begins in a Belgium bookstore and ends in a hidden temple in the Himalayas. The flow of the tale was lost by too much skipping around. A few paragraphs or a couple of pages is told from the perspective of one character, then it skips to another, then another, then back to the first, etc. A long book, it takes a while to really get interesting, but it is worth taking the convoluted journey to the end.

Reviewed by Fran Byram