The Emperor's Tomb (Cotton Malone Series #6)by Steve Berry
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Includes exclusive bonus material
Former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone has received an anonymous note carrying an unfamiliar Web address. Logging on, he’s shocked to see Cassiopeia Vitt, a woman who’s saved his life more than once, being tortured at the hands of a mysterious man who has a single/b>/i>… See more details below
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Includes exclusive bonus material
Former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone has received an anonymous note carrying an unfamiliar Web address. Logging on, he’s shocked to see Cassiopeia Vitt, a woman who’s saved his life more than once, being tortured at the hands of a mysterious man who has a single demand: Bring me the artifact she’s asked you to keep safe. The only problem is, Malone doesn’t have a clue what the man is talking about, since Cassiopeia has left nothing with him. So begins Malone’s most harrowing adventure to date—one that offers up astounding historical revelations, pits him against a ruthless ancient brotherhood, and sends him from Denmark to Belgium to Vietnam then on to one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world: the tomb of China’s First Emperor, guarded by an underground army of terra-cotta warriors, which has inexplicably remained sealed for more than two thousand years—its mysteries about to be revealed.
DON’T MISS A SNEAK PEEK OF STEVE BERRY’S NEW NOVEL, THE JEFFERSON KEY, IN THE BACK OF THE BOOK.
“To read a tale by Steve Berry is to become an armchair world traveler and instant historian. . . . His stories are fast-moving, solid with research and provocative.”—Sacramento Bee
“Hard to put down.”—Lincoln Journal Star
Another hasty exercise in suspense from airport novelist Berry.
Secret codes? Check. Hidden archeological marvel? Check. Square-jawed, steely-eyed hero? Check. This is the latest entry in Berry's (The Paris Vendetta, 2009, etc.) Cotton Malone series, starring the mild-mannered bookseller who snaps into a gun-toting, cinematically framed hero at a moment's notice. This time the bad guys get Malone's notice in a hurry when they kidnap his sort-of girlfriend Cassiopeia Vitt, forcing him into kick-ass Bourne mode. After a turbulent opening, Berry settles into his modus operandi: endless, eye-glazing exposition delivered by characters conjured up to serve just that purpose. Here, it's Malone's old boss Stephanie Nelle from the U.S. Justice Department and the shadowy Russian operative who lets Malone in on this week's conspiracy. Three powerful Chinese officials—Karl Tang, the first vice premier, Ni Yong, the head of the government's anti-corruption efforts, and Pau Wen, a former advisor to Mao—are circling around a world-shifting (and unbelievably absurd) secret. The Chinese have found that oil, instead of originating from compressed biological material, is "simply a primordial material the earth forms and exudes on a continual basis." Crafty Cotton Malone gets it right away: "It's endless?" Cue break-in to an Antwerp museum to steal an ancient lamp (read: MacGuffin), followed by a supersecret flight to China to break into the tomb of Qin Shi, the first Emperor of China, during which the bad guys are revealed as member of the Ba, a 2,000-year-old supersecret sect. Oh, and they're eunuchs, too. Berry does the job as well as most of his peers, but the long-winded conspiracy theories and controversy-baiting premise leave much to be desired. None of which will prevent it from becoming a bestseller.
One more superfluous shoot-'em-up catering to the most common denominator.
Read an Excerpt
tuesday, may 15
Cotton Malone typed the Web address with trembling fingers. Like a phone that rings in the middle of the night, nothing about an anonymous message was ever good.
The note had arrived two hours ago, while he'd been out of his bookshop on an errand, but the employee who'd accepted the unmarked envelope forgot to give it to him until a few minutes ago.
"The woman didn't say it was urgent," she said in her defense.
"Chinese lady, dressed in a gorgeous Burberry skirt. She said to give it only to you."
"She used my name?"
Inside had been a folded sheet of gray vellum upon which was printed a Web address with a dot-org suffix. He'd immediately climbed the four flights of stairs to his apartment above the bookshop and found his laptop.
He finished typing and waited while the screen blackened, then a new image appeared. A video display console indicated that a live feed was about to engage.
The communications link established.
A body appeared, lying on its back, arms above the head, ankles and wrists bound tight to what looked like a sheet of plywood. The person was angled so that the head was slightly beneath the feet. A towel wrapped the face, but it was clear the bound form was a woman.
"Mr. Malone." The voice was electronically altered, disguising every attribute of pitch and tone. "We've been waiting. Not in much of a hurry, are you? I have something for you to see."
A hooded figure appeared on the screen, holding a plastic bucket. He watched as water was poured onto the towel that wrapped the bound woman's face. Her body writhed as she struggled with her restraints.
He knew what was happening.
The liquid penetrated the towel and flowed unrestricted into her mouth and nose. At first a few gulps of air could be stolen-the throat constricted, inhaling little of the water-but that could be maintained only for a few seconds. Then the body's natural gag reflex would kick in and all control would be lost. The head was angled downward so gravity could prolong the agony. It was like drowning without ever being submerged.
The man stopped pouring.
The woman continued to struggle with her restraints.
The technique dated back to the Inquisition. Highly favored since it left no marks, its main drawback was harshness-so intense that the victim would immediately admit to anything. Malone had actually experienced it once, years ago, while training to become a Magellan Billet agent. All recruits had to take their turn as part of survival school. His agony had been amplified by his dislike of confinement. The bondage, combined with the soaked towel, had created an unbearable claustrophobia. He recalled the public debate a few years ago as to whether waterboarding was torture.
Damn right it was.
"Here's the purpose of my contact," the voice said.
The camera zoomed tight on the towel wrapping the woman's face. A hand entered the frame and wrenched the soaked cloth away, revealing Cassiopeia Vitt.
"Oh, no," Malone muttered.
Darts of fear pierced his skin. A light-headedness overtook him.
This can't be happening.
She blinked water from her eyes, spit more from her mouth, and gained her breath. "Don't give them a damn thing, Cotton. Nothing."
The soaked towel was slapped back across her face.
"That would not be smart," the computerized voice said. "Certainly not for her."
"Can you hear me?" he said into the laptop's microphone.
"Is this necessary?"
"For you? I believe so. You're a man to be respected. Former Justice Department agent. Highly trained."
"I'm a bookseller."
The voice chuckled. "Don't insult my intelligence, or risk her life any further. I want you to clearly understand what's at stake."
"And you need to understand that I can kill you."
"By then, Ms. Vitt will be dead. So let's stop with the bravado. I want what she gave you."
He saw Cassiopeia renew her struggle against the restraints, her head whipping from side to side beneath the towel.
"Give him nothing, Cotton. I mean it. I gave that to you for safekeeping. Don't give it up."
More water was poured. Her protests stopped as she fought to breathe.
"Bring the item to Tivoli Gardens, at two pm, just outside the Chinese pagoda. You'll be contacted. If you don't show-" The voice paused. "-I think you can imagine the consequences."
The connection was severed.
He sat back in the chair.
He hadn't seen Cassiopeia in more than a month. Hadn't spoken to her for two weeks. She'd said that she was headed out on a trip but, characteristically, offered no details. Their relationship was hardly one at all. Just an attraction that they both tacitly acknowledged. Strangely, Henrik Thorvaldsen's death had drawn them closer, and they'd spent a lot of time together in the weeks after their friend's funeral.
She was tough, smart, and gutsy.
He doubted if she'd ever experienced anything like that.
Seeing her on the screen tore at his gut. He suddenly realized that if anything happened to this woman his life would never be the same.
He had to find her.
But there was a problem.
She'd obviously been forced to do whatever was necessary in order to survive. This time, however, she may have bitten off more than she could ever chew.
She'd left nothing with him for safekeeping.
He had no clue what she, or her captor, was talking about.
Karl Tang assumed an expression that conveyed not
the slightest hint of what he was thinking. After nearly three decades of practice, he'd mastered the art.
"And why have you come this time?" the doctor asked him. She was an iron-faced, stiff-bodied woman with straight black hair, cut short in a proletarian style.
"Your anger toward me has not waned?"
"I have no hostility, Minister. You made it quite clear during your last visit that you are in charge, regardless of the fact that this is my facility."
He ignored her insulting tone. "And how is our patient?"
The First Infectious Disease Hospital, located just outside Chongqing, cared for nearly two thousand people afflicted with either tuberculosis or hepatitis. It was one of eight facilities scattered throughout the country, each a forbidding complex of gray brick surrounded by green fences, places where the contagious could be safely quarantined. But the security these hospitals enjoyed also made them ideal for the housing of any sick prisoners from the Chinese penal system.
Like Jin Zhao, who'd suffered a brain hemorrhage ten months ago.
"He's lying in his bed, as he's done since the first day he was brought here," the doctor said. "He clings to life. The damage is enormous. But-again, per your order-no treatment has been administered."
He knew she hated his usurpation of her authority. Gone were Mao's obedient "barefoot doctors," who, according to the official myth, had willingly lived among the masses and dutifully cared for the sick. And though she was the hospital's chief administrator, Tang was the national minister of science and technology, a member of the Central Committee, first vice premier of the Chinese Communist Party, and first vice president of the People's Republic of China-second in power only to the president and premier himself.
"As I made clear last time, Doctor," he said, "that was not my order, but the directive of the Central Committee, to which I, and you, owe absolute allegiance."
He voiced the words for the benefit of not only the foolish woman but also the three members of his staff and two captains from the People's Liberation Army who stood behind him. Each military man wore a crisp green uniform with the red star of the motherland emblazoned on his cap. One of them was surely an informant-reporting most likely to more than one benefactor-so he wanted any account to speak glowingly of him.
"Take us to the patient," he calmly commanded.
They walked down halls lined with lettuce-green plaster, cracked and lumpy, lighted by weak fluorescent fixtures. The floor was clean but yellowed from endless moppings. Nurses, their faces hidden by surgical masks, tended to patients clad in striped blue-and-white pajamas, some wearing brown robes, looking much like prisoners.
They entered another ward through a set of swinging metal doors. The room beyond was spacious, enough for a dozen or more patients, yet only one lay in a single bed beneath dingy white sheets.
The air stank.
"I see you left the linen alone," he said.
"You did order me to do so."
Another mark in his favor for the informant to report. Jin Zhao had been arrested ten months ago, but had suffered a hemorrhage during questioning. He was subsequently charged with treason and espionage, tried in a Beijing court, and convicted, all in absentia since he'd remained here, in a coma.
"He is just as you left him," the doctor said.
Beijing lay nearly a thousand kilometers to the east and he supposed that distance bolstered this woman's nerve. You may rob the Three Armies of their commander in chief, but you cannot deprive the humblest peasant of his opinion. More of Confucius' nonsense. Actually the government could, and this insolent bitch should heed that fact.
He motioned and one of the uniforms led her across the room.
He approached the bed.
The man lying prostrate was in his mid-sixties, his dirty hair long and unkempt, his emaciated frame and sunken cheeks reminiscent of those of a corpse. Bruises splotched his face and chest, while intravenous lines snaked from both arms. A ventilator fed air in and out of his lungs.
"Jin Zhao, you have been found guilty of treason against the People's Republic of China. You were afforded a trial, from which you lodged an appeal. I regret to inform you that the Supreme People's Court has approved your execution and denied your appeal."
"He can't hear a word you're saying," the doctor said from across the room.
He kept his eyes down on the bed. "Perhaps not, but the words must be spoken." He turned and faced her. "It is the law, and he is entitled to proper process."
"You tried him without him even being there," she blurted out. "You never heard a word he had to say."
"His representative was afforded the opportunity to present evidence."
The doctor shook her head in disgust, her face pale with hate. "Do you hear yourself? The representative never had the opportunity to even speak with Zhao. What evidence could possibly have been presented?"
He couldn't decide if the informant's eyes and ears belonged to one of his staff or one of the army captains. Hard to know anything for sure anymore. All he knew was that his report to the Central Committee would not be the only retelling, so he decided to make clear, "Are you sure? Not once has Zhao communicated anything?"
"He was beaten senseless. His brain is destroyed. He will never awaken from the coma. We keep him alive simply because you-no, excuse me, the Central Committee-ordered it."
He caught the disgust in the woman's eyes, something else he'd seen more and more of lately. Especially from women. Nearly the entire hospital staff-doctors and nurses-were women. They'd made great strides since Mao's Revolution, yet Tang still adhered to the adage his father had taught him. A man does not talk about affairs inside the home, and a woman does not talk about affairs outside.
This insignificant doctor, employed at a minor state-run hospital, was incapable of understanding the enormity of his challenge. Beijing ruled a land that stretched five thousand kilometers east to west and more than three thousand north to south. Much was uninhabitable mountains and desert, some of the most desolate regions in the world, only 10% of the country arable. Nearly one and a half billion people- more than America, Russia, and Europe combined. But only 60,000,000 were members of the Chinese Communist Party-less than 3% of the total. The doctor was a Party member, and had been for more than a decade. He'd checked. No way she could have risen to such a high managerial position otherwise. Only Party-membered, Han Chinese achieved such status. Hans were a huge majority of the population, the remaining small percentage spread across fifty-six minorities. The doctor's father was a prominent official in the local provincial government, a loyal Party member who'd participated in the 1949 Revolution and personally known both Mao and Deng Xiaoping.
Still, Tang needed to make clear, "Jin Zhao owed his loyalty to the People's government. He decided to aid our enemies-"
"What could a sixty-three-year-old geochemist have done to harm the People's government? Tell me, Minister. I want to know. What could he possibly do to us now?"
He checked his watch. A helicopter was waiting to fly him north.
"He was no spy," she said. "No traitor. What did he really do, Minister? What justifies beating a man until his brain bleeds?"
He had not the time to debate what had already been decided. The informant would seal this woman's fate. In a month she'd receive a transfer-despite her father's privileges-most likely sent thousands of kilometers west to the outer reaches, where problems were hidden away.
He turned toward the other uniform and motioned.
The captain removed his holstered sidearm, approached the bed, and fired one shot through Jin Zhao's forehead.
The body lurched, then went still.
The respirator continued to force air into dead lungs.
"Sentence has been carried out," Tang declared. "Duly witnessed by representatives of the People's government, the military-" He paused. "-and this facility's chief administrator."
He indicated that it was time to leave. The mess would be the doctor's to clean up.
He walked toward the doors.
"You just shot a helpless man," the doctor screamed. "Is this what our government has become?"
"You should be grateful," he said.
"That the government does not debit this facility's operating budget for the cost of the bullet."
And he left.
Malone left his bookshop and stepped out into Højbro Plads. The afternoon sky was cloudless, the Danish air comfortable. The Strøget- a chain of traffic-free streets, most lined with shops, cafés, restaurants, and museums-surged with commerce.
He'd solved the problem of what to bring by simply grabbing the first book off one of the shelves and stuffing it into an envelope. Cassiopeia had apparently opted to buy herself time by involving him. Not a bad play, except the ruse could only be stretched so far. He wished he knew what she was doing. Since last Christmas, between them, there'd been visits, a few meals here and there, phone calls, and e-mails. Most dealing with Thorvaldsen's death, which seemed to have hurt them both. He still couldn't believe his best friend was gone. Every day he expected the cagey old Dane to walk into the bookstore, ready for some lively conversation. He still harbored a deep regret that his friend had died thinking he'd been betrayed.
"You did what you had to in Paris," Cassiopeia told him. "I would have done the same."
"Henrik didn't see it that way."
"He wasn't perfect, Cotton. He sent himself into a spiral. He wasn't thinking and wouldn't listen. There was more at stake there than just his revenge. You had no choice."
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
is it just me, or is everyone else seeing that the ebook COSTS MORE THAN THE HARDBACK BOOK?!!!!!! Amazon is offering the same book at $9.99. W T F B&N? Why are you jacking up your book pricing? Great job in making customers regret not buying a Kindle so we could have more newspaper choices and better book prices! I know this shouldn't be about the price of the book, but where else is B&N going to hear customer dissatisfaction?
In China, government ministers Karl Tang and Ni Yong compete for who will become the country's next premier. Both believe possessing a third century B.C.E lamp is the key to become the leader as that ancient artifact is the key to eliminate dependence on foreign oil. Of the two Tang appears to be the more vicious, willing to kill the innocent to obtain the map and subsequently the premiership. Cotton Malone and his former lover Cassiopeia Vitt, who owes a debt that she is paying off, also seek the ancient Chinese lamp. However, neither is aware that the Chinese power struggle includes containing the same lamp. The murders of two foreigners is an acceptable outcome in Tang's mind and Yong, if need be, holds the same belief. The latest Malone thriller (see The Paris Vendetta) is an exhilarating tale that uses Chinese history to anchor the action-packed escapades. Fast-paced with one overkill exception inside a tomb, readers will relish the cat and mouse chase for the lamp as the mysterious Cassiopeia Vitt provides a delightful female counterpart to Malone (see the E-book The Balkan Escape for her tale including understanding her debt). The climax is a great confrontational finish to a fabulous tale. Harriet Klausner
Steve Berry - Emperor's Tomb Readers Digest version would have been much more entertaining. I have read other books from this Author and greatly enjoyed them. This was not one of his better works. To say this book was slow would be an understatement. After weeding through 200 pages of Ancient Chinese History, the story picks up, but only to plummet again. I originally thought the book was going to be about the Terracotta Warriors and the tomb in which they were found. But instead the story tried to meld information on the tomb, the different types of Oil (biopic vs abiopic) which was interesting, the history of Eunuchs in China and how they are castrated, Child Slavery, over the top to much information on history of Chinese Government, a potential love triangle and way to many other small topics. The reading was not heavy and really not all that interesting. Condense it to 150 to 200 pages and it may be a good page turner. As it is I struggled for weeks to read the book to completion. The characters are well developed, and work well together. The pieces all fit and the puzzle was complete in the end. Unfortunate my heavy sigh at the end was one of relief that I did not have to endure another page. I have not lost faith in the author. I enjoy his writing and look forward to his next release, lets just hope it is better than this one.
Finally! A bestseller nook book for $9.99. I haven't bought a nook book in a while since B&N raised prices and I could get the hardcover for the same price. Is anyone at B&N listening?
i thought this book was utterly overdone with implausible and ridiculous escapes and impossible and invented heroic actions. I might as well have read a action comic book.A waste of time.
Berry brings China and its history to life with the lastest adventure of Cotton Malone. With lots of betrayals, and agents involved from the US and Russia and high ranking officials in China this mission gets really tangled over the retrieval of a little boy. Parts of the story are somwhat complicated and it gets a little tough to follow and you may find yourself re-reading parts of it. But I have found that in several of his books. However, I did like learning some of China's history.
I have loved all of Steve Berry's other books, but I can not get into this book at all. I keep trying but the plot and the material does not capture me. I have no interest in modern Chinese eunuchs or politics much less ancient Chinese history. Maybe I should, but I'd much rather read about ancient Greece, Turkey, even ancient Africa or South America. This book lacks an interesting "hook" or mystery to keep reading. I look forward to Steve Berry's next book and hope it's more interesting than this one.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was well researched for Chinese history, and had many interesting twists and turns. The oil element of the story certainly is something worth investigating.
Book 6 of Steve Berry's "Cotton Malone" series takes our favorite ex-Magellan Billet agent to China where he must rescue his friend and sometime-lover, Cassiopeia Vitt. Vitt's gotten herself wrapped up in a web of conspiracy involving the Chinese premier and his top two ministers, some angry Russians, a handful of eunuchs, and Stephanie Nelle, Cotton's former boss. Everyone's on the hunt for a long-lost sample of oil which the Chinese need to prove that oil is not actually finite, but rather a replenishing source deep within the earth. Sound a but chaotic? That's because it is. Sadly this book failed for me, and this is the first time I've said that about any of Berry's books. I usually love the fast-pace and intrigue, but The Emperor's Tomb was mired in Chinese history from the very first page. I felt bogged down by the different history lessons, so much so that by the time it got to the real action, I was ready to be done reading. The set-up might have been necessary to give us the appropriate background for the drama between the two Chinese ministers, but I truly lost the message in all the information. "Less is more" is not a method Berry utilized here. I've received an advance copy of The Jefferson Key, Book 7 of the "Cotton Malone" series, and I really hope the next book can redeem Berry in my eyes. The last Berry book I read (The Paris Vendetta) received 3 stars from me, but the one before that (The Charlemagne Pursuit) received 5. I'm giving The Emperor's Tomb 2 stars. Not a good trend Steve, not a good trend.
A true potboiler that kept my attention. Plot and characters were well developed along with interesting information on Chinese history.
An interesting story line, well told. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Great read! Steve Berry fans will not be disappointed. Good adventure with a bit of historical info on China. You'll be not be disappointed.
enjoyed the book. quick moving and the relationship between Cotton and Witt has developed over the series. Interesting to learn more about the Emperor's tomb.
I have read all the Steve Barry/ Cotton Malone novels and by far this was his best work. The writing is better, the story is tighter, the research deeper -- and very, very interesting/ informative as well as entertaining!
I'm not quite sure why, but I just didn't like this book. It took me forever to get through it (I usually breeze through his books in a few days) and the story just seemed to drag on. I was really disappointed with this book. I hope the next one is better.
Similar to another audio book, I just heard (The Ghost War, by Alex Berenson), this is a twelve disc audio book with a wonderful reader who has mastered accents and inflection so that the book keeps you on the edge of your seat and alert as you drive! From a child's kidnapping to foreign intrigue about a new scientific discovery, this book is filled with excitement. There are so many sub plots, but underneath them all there is the additional plot of several competing leaders in China, each of whom wishes to take over the government. Russia and the United States are involved in the intrigue, with each employing agents who may not be all that scrupulous. Murder is simply a means to an end, viewed almost casually. Torture is acceptable in the Asian prisons. Maoists and Liberationists go head to head in their fight to take over the government and in the background, the "Ba" and the Eunochs also vie for power, aligning themselves with competing, powerful people. The "double cross" is routine, as ethical behavior is not of the slightest concern. The winner will determine whether or not China becomes a threat to, or a peaceful participant in, world affairs. Underlying all of the varied sub-plots and side issues, is the theme of an undying source of energy, for which all three countries are searching; the key to its secret existence is thought to be hidden in China. Often the bad guy wins. China, as well as Russia, is a country with vastly different rules than the United States, and their tactics are sometimes appalling as are those of their agents. However, none of the participating countries is guiltless when it comes to reprehensible behavior. Greed and the desire for power appears to be the driving force and in its wake, valuable antiquities are destroyed and people are sacrificed with little or no reason other than expedience rather than justice. This book is action packed; undercover agents and double agents go head to head. They sneak in and out of several countries to search for answers, often with violent outcomes. There is an abundance of characters, which sometimes makes it a little hard to figure out which one is being featured. There is definitely murder and mayhem and while the book may not keep you guessing, it will certainly keep you interested for many hours. It is worth the "road trip.
I was not all that impressed. Quite honestly, the Cotton Malone series is not all that great, its fun sort of, but always leaves me disappointed.... I hate perfect characters that always do the right thing... I think his best work was the Romanov Prophecy, now that was a great read.... This is not bad and if you want good escapism then you will like it... but if you are looking for something more exciting then look somewhere else.
Cotton Malones life as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen is never boring, hell, I wonder if he even have time to be an antiquarian book dealer since he spends much of his time traveling around the globe saving things and people. In this book he has to save his close friend Cassiopeia Vitt and suddenly he is smack in the middle of a power struggle between two of Chinas leading men. It’s nonstop action from the beginning till the end. Just the way I like my adventures books. And you get a history lesson about Chinas first emperor. I like that too, since I honestly isn’t that well informed about Chinas history. It’s a good book, it never gets boring. The only thing I didn’t like was the ending...
CD/Thriller: Scott Brick is such a good narrator, the the director did a horrible job. The director cut so much that there were points that needed Scott to take a breath and didn't. Such has paragraphs that change from one setting to another. Too, too confusing.
Got to list this work as one of Berry's best. Along with being a nice lesson in Chinese history it's a great adventure in excitemtent and political double and triple dealings!!!
Good story kept me wanting to read on