The Charlemagne Pursuit is one of a series of thrillers by Steve Berry, featuring Cotton Malone, a retired navy man and U.S. Justice Department agent, now working as a rare book dealer in Copenhagen. Malone travels to Germany to receive a folder containing information on what happened to his father, who disappeared in 1971 on a submarine on a secret mission to Antarctica. For years the navy has covered up what really happened to the submarine, and what its mission was. But as soon as Malone gets the folder, someone tries to kill him. After he escapes, he meets two German sisters, Dorothea and Christl, twins who hate each other. It turns out their father died on the same submarine as Malone’s father. In 1938 their grandfather, a Nazi, explored Antarctica, where he found stones with writing in a language no one has been able to decipher. He believed these stones were evidence of a lost civilization in Antarctica—one that existed thousands of years before the Sumerians and Egyptians. The sisters’ father had been attempting to return to the same site, on the submarine commanded by Malone’s father, in order to discover more clues to the lost civilization, when he met his death. One of the sisters shows Malone a book found in Charlemagne’s tomb, which is written in the same language as the stones from Antarctica. Although he doesn’t trust the sisters, Malone decides to join them on their quest to find the lost civilization, and the truth about what happened to his father. But an ambitious admiral, who had gone in search of the submarine back in the 1970s, is so determined to hide the truth that he has hired a killer to eliminate everyone who has any knowledge of what happened, and he has decided Malone will be his next victim.
As is usual with Berry’s books, The Charlemagne Pursuit is an exciting read, and hard to put down, with many narrow escapes for Malone, and twists and turns in the plot, as Malone is never sure which of his so-called allies he can trust, if any. The parts about Charlemagne and his tomb are fascinating, as is the concept of a lost civilization, even though Berry admits in his author’s note that this is mostly fiction, even though people have speculated about the possibility. Malone is a believable protagonist, with many flaws and a past which is not entirely clear. But, in spite of his flaws, you always want him to succeed in his quest.
The Charlemagne Pursuit is available from the Hatcher Graduate Library: http://mirlyn.lib.umich.edu/Record/006305871 .