The 14th Colony by Steve Berry is the 11th book in the Cotton Malone series, featuring a KGB plot to exploit the flaws in the Constitution and presidential succession act that Cotton Malone must stop before it jeopardizes everything.
The Founding Fathers were keen that Canada would become the 14th colony. History has a way of showing us that you don’t always get what you wish for; sometimes you get more—a lot more. Steve Berry gives a lot more than you’d expect with this very cleverly crafted thriller.
It starts with Ronald Reagan and the Pope plotting major difficulties for the Soviet Union in 1982, then moves like a speeding bullet to Siberia, where the dry, cold air isn’t enough to keep Cotton Malone’s plane in the air when it's targeted by a surface-to-air missile. He makes it to the ground, only to be met by a welcoming party with more hot, hard lead and not a glass of vodka in sight. He doesn’t hang around, but others have plans for him that involve more face-to-face action. This sets the pace for Berry’s story, which grabs you by the lapels and forces you to pay attention.
The President’s nephew, all muscle and action, can’t go it alone, so he is aided along the way by men and women from secret and not-so-secret groups—some modern, and others dating back to the days of the war against the British. Aleksandr Zorin is planning a trip to the U.S., but not to see the sights or learn more about the Cold War—which, for him, hasn’t ended—he plans to wreak havoc on America.
His unrelenting training as a Special Forces operative for the Russians includes departing a plane whilst it is still at high altitude, which seems the sensible way to enter the U.S. when you have no visa or travel documents and intend the country harm. Although checking his own parachute is something he may have wished to do first:
He slapped his arms across his chest.
Bitter cold air assaulted him, but the layering was doing its job. He knew the math. At three seconds out he was moving eighty kilometers per hour. The whole jump should take no more than three minute, tops. Everything in the air happened fast, the experience akin to falling nose first into a wind tunnel. His forehead tightened. His cheeks beneath the balaclava’s wool seemed as if they were running off his face.
He’d not felt those sensations in a long while.
But he liked them.
Through the night-vision goggles he saw that he was still out over the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but forward velocity was quickly driving him toward shore. He carried no altimeter, but he’d been trained the old way. Know your starting point, then count down, the idea being to pull the chute at 1,500 meters, then settle into a soft glide and work your way to a reasonably safe landing.
He threw his arms and legs out, stopping his body from spinning, leading with his belly. So much could go wrong. Tangled lines. High winds. Canopy tears. Mot were fixable, provided they could be solved before 500 meters. After that, nothing really mattered since there wasn’t enough time to do much of anything except die.
There is a lot death in this book, as there are a lot of guns with a lot of bullets, but when the country’s very existence is at stake, you can’t fight with the safety on. The action goes from Siberia to Washington D.C. to rural Virginia to France and back to Washington D.C., but it’s not just the boys that get all the action.
Cassiopeia had listened carefully, noticing the shift from English to Russian. The tone of the two men changed also, from cautious to conspiratorial. She’d also risked a look and saw as Kelly lowered a gun he’d been aiming at Zorin. She now realized that Cotton had assigned her the listening duties on the off chance that these two would revert to Russian.
That was another thing she loved about him.
“I’ve been ready for more than twenty years,” Kelly said. “I’ve done my duty.”
“Then, comrade, tell me what I need to know.”
In addition to the scorching action that leaps off the page, there are many interesting historical and modern references, and the author kindly puts a section in the back that defines the line between fact and fiction. As always, fact is harder to believe than fiction, but you won’t dwell on that as it comes to a fantastic climax in the beating heart of this great country that will have you rooted to your seat with each page.
I thought, with all the real-life drama playing out in the world today, there would be less room for novels that mirror this conflict. However, this book proves that you just can’t beat a good story. The 14th Colony mixes good action, a good narrative, and a great ending that will leave you eager for the next offering from the pen of Mr. Berry.
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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.