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A Novel

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On Sale: February 06, 2007
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Cotton Malone retired from the high-risk world of elite operatives for the U.S. Justice Department to lead the low-key life of a rare-book dealer. But his quiet existence is shattered when he receives an anonymous e-mail: “You have something I want. You’re the only person on earth who knows where to find it. Go get it. You have 72 hours. If I don’t hear from you, you will be childless.” His horrified ex-wife confirms that the threat is real: Their teenage son has been kidnapped. When Malone’s Copenhagen bookshop is burned to the ground, it becomes brutally clear that those responsible will stop at nothing to get what they want. And what they want is nothing less than the lost Library of Alexandria.

A cradle of ideas–historical, philosophical, literary, scientific, and religious–the Library of Alexandria was unparalleled in the world. But fifteen hundred years ago, it vanished into the mists of myth and legend–its vast bounty of wisdom coveted ever since by scholars, fortune hunters, and those who believe its untold secrets hold the key to ultimate power.

Now a cartel of wealthy international moguls, bent on altering the course of history, is desperate to breach the library’s hallowed halls–and only Malone possesses the information they need to succeed. At stake is an explosive ancient document with the potential not only to change the destiny of the Middle East but to shake the world’s three major religions to their very foundations.

Pursued by a lethal mercenary, Malone crosses the globe in search of answers. His quest will lead him to England and Portugal, even to the highest levels of American government–and the shattering outcome, deep in the Sinai desert, will have worldwide repercussions.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

ONE

Copenhagen, Denmark

Tuesday, October 4
The present

1:45 am

Cotton Malone stared straight into the face of trou- ble. Outside his bookshop’s open front door stood his ex-wife, the last person on earth he’d expected to see. He quickly registered panic in her tired eyes, remembered the pounding that had awoken him a few minutes before, and instantly thought of his son.

“Where’s Gary?” he asked.

“You son of a bitch. They took him. Because of you. They took him.” She lunged forward, her closed fists crashing down onto his shoulders. “You sorry son of a bitch.” He grabbed her wrists and stopped the attack as she started crying. “I left you because of this. I thought this kind of thing was over.”

“Who took Gary?” More sobs were his answer. He kept hold of her arms. “Pam. Listen to me. Who took Gary?”

She stared at him. “How the hell am I supposed to know?”

“What are you doing here? Why didn’t you go to the police?”

“Because they said not to. They said if I went anywhere near the police, Gary was dead. They said they would know, and I believed them.”

“Who’s they?”

She wrenched her arms free, her face flooded with anger. “I don’t know. All they said was for me to wait two days, then come here and give you this.” She rummaged through her shoulder bag and produced a phone. Tears continued to rain down her cheeks. “They said for you to go online and open your e-mail.”

Had he heard right? Go online and open your e-mail?

He flipped open the phone and checked the frequency. Enough megahertz to make it world-capable. Which made him wonder. Suddenly he felt vulnerable. Højbro Plads was quiet. At this late hour no one roamed the city square.

His senses came alive.

“Get inside.” And he yanked her into the shop and closed the door. He hadn’t switched on any lights.

“What is it?” she asked, her voice shredded by fear.

He faced her. “I don’t know, Pam. You tell me. Our son has apparently been taken by God-knows-who, and you wait two days before telling a soul about it? That didn’t strike you as insane?”

“I wasn’t going to jeopardize his life.”

“And I would? How have I ever done that?”

“By being you,” she said in a frigid tone, and he instantly recalled why he no longer lived with her.

A thought occurred to him. She’d never been to Denmark. “How did you find me?”

“They told me.”

“Who the hell is they?”

“I don’t know, Cotton. Two men. Only one did the talking. Tall, dark-haired, flat face.”

“American?”

“How would I know?”

“How did he speak?”

She seemed to catch hold of herself. “No. Not American. They had accents. European.”

He motioned with the phone. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“He said to open your e-mail and it would be explained.”

She glanced nervously around at the shelves cast in shadows. “Upstairs, right?”

Gary would have told her he lived over the store. He certainly hadn’t. They’d spoken only once since he’d retired from the Justice Department and left Georgia last year, and that had been two months back, in August, when he’d brought Gary home after their summer visit. She’d coldly told him that Gary was not his natural son. Instead the boy was the product of an affair from sixteen years ago, her response to his own infidelity. He’d wrestled with that demon ever since and had not, as yet, come to terms with its implications. One thing he’d decided at the time—he had no intention of ever speaking to Pam Malone again. Whatever needed to be said would be said between him and Gary.

But things seemed to have changed.

“Yeah,” he said. “Upstairs.”

They entered his apartment, and he sat at the desk. He switched on his laptop and waited for the programs to boot. Pam had finally grabbed hold of her emotions. She was like that. Her moods ran in waves. Soaring highs and cavernous lows. She was a lawyer, like him, but where he’d worked for the government, she handled high-stakes trials for Fortune 500 companies that could afford to pay her firm’s impressive fees. When she’d first gone to law school he’d thought the decision a reflection of him, a way for them to share a life together. Later he’d learned it was a way for her to gain independence.

That was Pam.

The laptop was ready. He accessed his mailbox.

Empty.

“Nothing here.”

Pam rushed toward him. “What do you mean? He said to open your e-mail.”

“That was two days ago. And by the way, how did you get here?”

“They had a ticket, already bought.”

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Are you nuts? What you did was give them a two-day head start.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” she yelled. “You think I’m a complete idiot? They told me my phones were tapped and I was being watched. If I varied from their instructions, even a little, Gary was dead. They showed me a picture.” She caught herself and tears flowed anew. “His eyes . . . oh, his eyes.” She broke down again. “He was scared.”

His chest throbbed and his temples burned. He’d intentionally left behind a life of daily danger to find something new. Had that life now hunted him down? He grabbed the edge of the desk. It would do no good for both of them to fall apart. If whoever they were wanted Gary dead, then he was already. No. Gary was a bargaining chip—a way to apparently gain his undivided attention.

The laptop dinged.

His gaze shot to the screen’s lower-right corner: receiving mail. Then he saw greetings appear on the from line and your son’s life noted as the subject. He maneuvered the cursor and opened the e-mail.

YOU HAVE SOMETHING I WANT. THE ALEXANDRIA LINK. YOU HID IT AND YOU’RE THE ONLY PERSON ON EARTH WHO KNOWS WHERE TO FIND IT. GO GET IT. YOU HAVE 72 HOURS. WHEN YOU HAVE IT, HIT THE NUMBER 2 BUTTON ON THE PHONE. IF I DON’T HEAR FROM YOU AT THE END OF 72 HOURS, YOU WILL BE CHILDLESS. IF DURING THAT TIME YOU SCREW WITH ME, YOUR SON WILL LOSE A VITAL APPENDAGE. 72 HOURS. FIND IT AND WE’LL TRADE.

Pam was standing behind him. “What’s the Alexandria Link?”

He said nothing. He couldn’t. He was indeed the only person on earth who knew, and he’d given his word.

“Whoever sent that message knows all about it. What is it?”

He stared at the screen and knew there’d be no way to trace the message. The sender, like himself, surely knew how to use black holes—computer servers that randomly routed e-mails through an electronic maze. Not impossible to follow, but difficult.

He stood from the chair and ran a hand through his hair. He’d meant to get a haircut yesterday. He worked the sleep from his shoulders and sucked a few deep breaths. He’d earlier slipped on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt that hung open, exposing a gray undershirt, and he was suddenly chilled by fear.

“Dammit, Cotton—”

“Pam, shut up. I have to think. You’re not helping.”

“I’m not helping? What the—”

The cell phone rang. Pam lunged for it, but he cut her off and said, “Leave it.”

“What do you mean? It could be Gary.”

“Get real.”

He scooped up the phone after the third ring and pushed talk.

“Took long enough,” the male voice said in his ear. He caught a Dutch accent. “And please, no if-you-hurt-that-boy-I’m-going-to-kill-you bra- vado. Neither one of us has the time. Your seventy-two hours have already started.”

Malone stayed silent, but he recalled something he learned long ago. Never let the other side set the bargain. “Stick it up your ass. I’m not going anywhere.”

“You take a lot of risks with your son’s life.”

“I see Gary. I talk to him. Then, I go.”

“Take a look outside.”

He rushed to the window. Four stories down Højbro Plads was still quiet, except for two figures standing on the far side of the cobbled expanse.

Both silhouettes shouldered weapons.

Grenade launchers.

“Don’t think so,” the voice said in his ear.

Two projectiles shot through the night and obliterated the windows below him.

Both exploded.


From the Hardcover edition.
Steve Berry|Author Q&A

About Steve Berry

Steve Berry - The Alexandria Link

Photo © Kelly Campbell

Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Lincoln Myth, The King’s Deception, The Columbus Affair, The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 40 languages with more than 17,000,000 copies in 51 countries.
 
History lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel. It’s this passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, that led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have traveled across the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners, and their popular writers’ workshops. To date, nearly 2,500 students have attended those workshops. In 2012 their work was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve the first spokesman for National Preservation Week. He was also appointed by the Smithsonian Board of Regents to serve on the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board to help promote and support the libraries in their mission to provide information in all forms to scientists, curators, scholars, students, and the public at large. He has received the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award and the 2013 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers. His novel The Columbus Affair earned him the Anne Frank Human Writes Award, and his historic preservation work merited the 2013 Silver Bullet from International Thriller Writers.
 
Steve Berry was born and raised in Georgia, graduating from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was a trial lawyer for 30 years and held elective office for 14 of those years. He is a founding member of International Thriller Writers—a group of more than 2,600 thriller writers from around the world—and served three years as its co-president.
 
For more information, visit www.steveberry.org.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Steve Berry

Question: The subject of The Alexandria Link is the Library of Alexandria. What exactly was it?

Steve Berry:
The grandest collection of knowledge in the ancient world: part university, laboratory, research institute, and zoo. An impressive complex of buildings and gardens (situated in two separate locations), resembling a Greek temple, each with richly decorated lecture and banquet halls linked by colonnaded walks. Founded in the fourth century bce, the library was staffed by Greek scientists, philosophers, artists, writers, and scholars, and contained a vast collection, more than 700,000 scrolls and papyri. If any book was found aboard a ship that visited Alexandria, the law required it to be taken to the library and copied, the tradition being that no manuscript should not be available in Alexandria.

Q: What was Alexander himself like?

SB:
Complex, to say the least. He lived a short life, thirty-three years, from 356 — 323 bce. He was first king of Macedonia, then conquered much of what was then the civilized world – Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Asia all the way to western India. He’s been physically depicted in a variety of conflicting ways, which seems to only add to his mystique. A warrior of the highest order, he possessed a shrewd political sense that enabled him to convert bitter enemies into long-lasting friends. He was also a visionary: a Greek who became a Persian, rejecting the petty nationalism that clouded much of his time’s political thinking. Before Alexander, eastern ideas flourished. After him, western thoughts dominated. He ushered in the Hellenistic Age of Greek dominance which, together with the later Romans and Christianity, formed the foundation of what is now western civilization. An amazing legacy.

Q: What eventually became of the Library of Alexandria?

SB:
One version holds that it burned when Julius Caesar fought Ptolemy XIII in 48 bce. Caesar ordered the torching of the royal fleet, but the fire spread throughout the city and may have consumed the library. Another version blamed Christians who supposedly destroyed both the main library in 272 ce and the secondary one, in the Serapeum, in 391– part of their effort to rid the city of all pagan influences. A final account credited Arabs with the library’s destruction after they conquered Alexandria in 642. The caliph Omar, when asked about books in the imperial treasury, was quoted as saying, If what is written agrees with the Book of God, they are not required. If it disagrees, they are not desired. Destroy them. So for six months, scrolls supposedly fueled the baths of Alexandria. But no one knows which version is true. The more likely explanation is that as Egypt was confronted with growing unrest and foreign aggression, the library became victim to persecution, mob violence, and military occupation – no longer enjoying special privileges. As with so much that man creates, it simply faded away.


Q: Is there a chance that the library is actually still in existence?

SB:
What a find that would be, but sadly, it’s most probably gone. Still, we can imagine that it survived.

Q: Given the recent talk about efforts to bring all written material together into one comprehensive and accessible digital library, was the Library of Alexandria ahead of its time?

SB:
No question. Even ancient man recognized the logic and convenience of having knowledge both assimilated and organized. Unfortunately, the Library of Alexandria represented one of the first and last attempts of that age to accomplish the task. After its demise, it was not until the Middle Ages, 800 years later, that man again managed to duplicate the endeavor.

Q: How did you become interested in the topic?

SB:
I’ve had an interest in the Library of Alexandria for many years, and knew that I wanted to eventually do a book on it. Libraries are fascinating. I currently serve as chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Camden County library, so the institutions have a near and dear place in my heart.


Q: What about Poussin’s strange painting, The Shepherds of Arcadia II, and the odd markings at Bainbridge Hall in England, which you also work into the novel? Any idea what those really mean?

SB:
Impossible to say. Both are fascinating. Why Poussin painted the reverse image of one of his earlier works remains a mystery. But that curiosity, as well as Poussin’s actual life, fit well into the plot. The markings (along with Poussin’s reverse painting) at my fictional Bainbridge Hall are based on an actual monument which stands at Shugborough Hall in England. Many an expert has tried to decipher their meaning and none have offered any satisfactory explanation. I actually think my interpretation might make the most sense.

Q: The prologue of The Alexandria Link is set in Palestine in 1948 just as the state of Israel was being established. This was obviously a crucial time in the history of that war-torn area, but is also a tough subject to address. What led you to write about it? How did you research the time and place? And what were the challenges involved?

SB:
I struggled with this prologue, debating whether to use ancient times or stay current. I settled on 1948 because what happened to the Arabs during the nakba has great relevance to what’s happening in the world today. That’s the thing about the Middle East conflict: history plays a pivotal role. Researching all those events was easy. There are countless books. The challenge came in balancing the many conflicting claims. And, believe me, there aren’t two, but one hundred and two, sides to every story.

Q: For the first time in your career, you bring back characters in this novel. Cotton Malone and a few others return from your recent bestseller, The Templar Legacy. Was it easier to work with characters you already knew, or was it harder?

SB:
A little of both. You can’t assume that readers of this book will have read The Templar Legacy, so there’s a certain amount of character development that has to be included with each story. What recurring characters offer, though, is an ability to grow. Readers can learn more about these personalities as they face differing situations. Like old friends, the more you see them, the more you know about them. That’s different from my first three novels, The Amber Room, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Third Secret, which were all stand-alones.

Q: I assume Cotton and the others will be back. Can you give any clues as to what adventure awaits them?

SB:
All I can tell you is they will all be back in The Venetian Betrayal. Visit my website for details: www.steveberry.org.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

Praise for Steve Berry

The Templar Legacy

“Richly detailed and fantastically suspenseful, this thriller grips the reader for a wild literary ride that continues until the very last page.”
–Tucson Citizen

The Third Secret

“A racy read . . . skillfully combines Vatican insights, old-fashioned thrills, intrigue, murder, ambition and retribution.”
–Orlando Sentinel

The Romanov Prophecy

“Perfect for thriller fans and history buffs alike. Fabulous plot twists.”
–David Morrell, author of Creepers


The Amber Room

“Sexy, illuminating . . . my kind of thriller.”
–Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code


From the Hardcover edition.
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