The Columbus Affair

The Columbus Affair

3.6 110
by Steve Berry

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A family’s secret, a ruthless fanatic, and a covert arm of the American government—all are linked by a single puzzling possibility:
What if everything we know about the discovery of America was a lie? What if that lie was designed to hide the secret of why Columbus sailed in 1492? And what if that 500-year-old secret

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A family’s secret, a ruthless fanatic, and a covert arm of the American government—all are linked by a single puzzling possibility:
What if everything we know about the discovery of America was a lie? What if that lie was designed to hide the secret of why Columbus sailed in 1492? And what if that 500-year-old secret could violently reshape the modern political world?
Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Tom Sagan has written hard-hitting articles from hot spots around the world. But when one of his stories from the Middle East is exposed as a fraud, his professional reputation crashes and burns. Now he lives in virtual exile—haunted by bad decisions and a shocking truth he can never prove:  that his downfall was a deliberate act of sabotage by an unknown enemy. But before Sagan can end his torment with the squeeze of a trigger, fate intervenes in the form of an enigmatic stranger.  This stranger forces Sagan to act—and his actions attract the attention of the Magellan Billet, a top-secret corps of the United States Justice Department that deals with America’s most sensitive investigations. Sagan suddenly finds himself caught in an international incident, the repercussions of which will shudder not only Washington, D.C., but also Jerusalem. Coaxed into a deadly cat-and-mouse game, unsure who’s friend and who’s foe, Sagan is forced to Vienna, Prague, then finally into the Blue Mountains of Jamaica—where his survival hinges on his rewriting everything we know about Christopher Columbus.
Don’t miss Steve Berry’s short story “The Admiral’s Mark” and a sneak peek of his new novel, The King’s Deception, in the back of the book.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An engrossing stand-alone thriller from bestseller Berry.”—Publishers Weekly
“This being a Berry production, every alliance is of course fragile, and the bonds among even the heartiest teammates are up for grabs. So is the ultimate goal, for the author gradually reveals that Columbus’ lost gold mine is only chicken feed compared to the real bonanza at stake. Less The Da Vinci Code than American Treasure. Think of Nicolas Cage, tearing up the scenery as Tom Sagan, to the background beat of popping corn and you’re halfway there.”—Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Steve Berry
“Berry raises this genre’s stakes.”—The New York Times
“As always with Steve Berry, you’re educated about significant things while your knuckles are turning white and the pages are flying by.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci
“For those in need of a comparison, think Jack Bauer and the hit television series 24, with twists, turns, schemes and counter-schemes manifesting themselves by the second. . . . Berry’s on a roll.”—Los Angeles Times
“I love this guy.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child
“Forget Clancy and Cussler. When it comes to this genre, there is simply no one better.”—The Providence Journal
“Steve Berry writes with the self-assured style of a veteran.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Dan Brown

Library Journal
In his first stand-alone thriller since 2005, Berry (The Jefferson Key) takes advantage of the enigma that was Christopher Columbus to create a fascinating blend of legends, fables, contested historical facts, and imaginative fiction. Tom Sagan, a disgraced journalist of Jewish descent, is about to commit suicide when he is coerced into a plot to decipher secrets hidden in the coffin of his father. Sagan's estranged daughter, Alle, has fallen into the hands of ruthless Zachariah Simon, a wealthy Orthodox Jew in search of a treasure supposedly hidden by Columbus somewhere in Jamaica. Simon has temporarily allied himself with Béne Rowe, a Jamaican Maroon, descendant of runaway slaves, who has his own reasons for finding the treasure. But does it exist and, if so, what exactly is it? Many will risk their lives to learn the truth. VERDICT Thriller readers—from fans of Dan Brown's ciphers to Clive Cussler's fantastic adventures—will savor this intoxicating amalgam of Taíno (indigenous) myth, Maroon legend, the history of Jews in Jamaica, the peregrinations of Temple treasures following Titus's sacking of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and Columbus's mysterious deeds in the West Indies. Sure to be another best seller. [See Prepub Alert, 11/7/11; library marketing.]—Ron Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
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4.36(w) x 7.28(h) x 1.51(d)

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Tom Sagan gripped the gun. He’d thought about this moment for the past year, debating the pros and cons, finally deciding that one pro outweighed all cons.

He simply did not want to live any longer.

He’d once been an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, knocking down a solid six-figure salary, his marquee byline generating one front-page, above-the-fold story after another. He’d worked all over the world—Sarajevo, Beijing, Johannesburg, Belgrade, and Moscow. But the Middle East became his specialty, a place he came to know intimately, where his reputation had been forged. His confidential files were once filled with hundreds of willing sources, people who knew he’d protect them at all costs. He’d proved that when he spent eleven days in a DC jail for failing to reveal his source on a story about a corrupt Pennsylvania congressman.

That man had gone to prison.

Tom had received his third Pulitzer nomination.

There were twenty-one awarded categories. One was for “distinguished investigative reporting by an individual or team, reported as a single newspaper article or a series.” Winners received a certificate, $10,000, and the ability to add three precious words—Pulitzer Prize winner—to their names.

He won his.

But they took it back.

Which seemed the story of his life.

Everything had been taken back.

His career, his reputation, his credibility, even his self-respect. In the end he became a failure as a son, a father, a husband, a reporter, and a friend. A few weeks ago he’d charted that spiral on a pad, identifying that it all started when he was twenty-five, fresh out of the University of Florida, top third of his class, a journalism degree in hand.

Then his father disowned him.

Abiram Sagan had been unrelenting.

“We all make choices. Good. Bad. Indifferent. You’re a grown man, Tom, and have made yours. Now I have to make mine.”

And that he had.

On that same pad he’d jotted down the highs and lows. Some from before, as editor of his high school paper and campus reporter at college. Most after. His rise from news assistant, to staff reporter, to senior international correspondent. The awards. Accolades. Respect from his peers. How had one observer described his style? “Wide-ranging and prescient reporting conducted at great personal risk.”

Then his divorce.

The estrangement from his only child. Poor investment decisions. Even poorer life decisions.

Finally, his firing.

Eight years ago.

And the seemingly nothing life since.

Most of his friends were gone. But that was as much his fault as theirs. As his personal depression had deepened he’d withdrawn into himself. Amazing he hadn’t turned to alcohol or drugs, but neither had ever appealed to him.

Self-pity was his intoxicant.

He stared around at the house’s interior.

He’d decided to die, here, in his parents’ home. Fitting, in some morbid way. Thick layers of dust and a musty smell reminded him that for three years the rooms had sat empty. He’d kept the utilities on, paid the meager taxes, and had the lawn cut just enough so the neighbors wouldn’t complain. Earlier, he’d noticed that the sprawling mulberry tree out front needed trimming, the picket fence painting.

He hated it here. Too many ghosts.

He walked the rooms, remembering happier days. In the kitchen he could still see the jars of his mother’s jam that once lined the windowsill. The thought of her brought a wave of an unusual joy that quickly faded.

He should write a note and explain himself, blame somebody or something. But to who? Or what? Nobody would believe him if he told them the truth. Unfortunately, just like eight years ago, there was no one to blame but himself.

Would anyone even care he was gone?

Certainly not his daughter. He hadn’t spoken to her in two years.

His literary agent? Maybe. She’d made a lot of money off his ghostwriting. He’d been shocked to learn how many so-called bestselling fiction writers could not write a word. What had one critic said at the time of his downfall? “Journalist Sagan seems to have a promising career ahead of him writing fiction.”


But he’d actually taken that advice.

He wondered—how do you explain taking your own life? It is, by definition, an irrational act. Which, by definition, defies explanation. Hopefully, somebody would bury him. He had plenty of money in the bank, more than enough for a respectable funeral.

What would it be like to be dead?

Were you aware? Could you hear? See? Smell? Or was it simply an eternal blackness. No thoughts. No feeling.

Nothing at all.

He walked back toward the front of the house.

Outside was a glorious March day, the noontime sun bright. Florida was truly blessed with some terrific weather. Like California, without the earthquakes, where he lived before his firing. He’d miss the feel of a warm sun on a pleasant summer’s day.

He stopped in the open archway and stared at the parlor. That was what his mother had always called the room. This was where his parents had gathered on Shabbat. Where Abiram read from the Torah. The place where Yom Kippur and Holy Days had been recognized. He recalled the sight of the pewter menorah on the far table burning. His parents had been devout Jews. After his bar mitzvah he, too, had first studied the Torah, standing before the twelve-paned windows, framed out by damask curtains his mother had taken months to sew. She’d been talented with her hands, a lovely woman, universally adored. He missed her. She died six years before Abiram, who’d now been gone three.

Time to end this.

He studied the gun, a pistol bought a few months before at an Orlando gun show, and sat on the sofa. Clouds of dust rose, then settled. He recalled Abiram’s lecture about the birds and the bees as he’d sat in the same spot. He’d been, what, twelve?

Thirty-eight years ago.

But it seemed like last week.

As usual, the explanations had been rough and concise.

“Do you understand?” Abiram asked him. “It’s important that you do.”

“I don’t like girls.”

“You will. So don’t forget what I said.”

Women. Another failure. He’d had precious few relationships as a young man, marrying Michele, the first girl who’d shown serious interest in him. But the marriage ended after his firing, and there’d been no more women since the downfall. Michele had taken a toll on him.

“Maybe I’ll get to see her soon, too,” he muttered.

His ex-wife had died two years ago in a car crash.

That was the last time he and his daughter spoke, her words loud and clear. “Get out. She would not want you here.”

And he’d left the funeral.

He stared again at the gun, his finger on the trigger. He steeled himself, grabbed a breath, and nestled the barrel to his temple. He was left-handed, like nearly every Sagan. His uncle, a former professional baseball player, had told him as a child that if he could learn to throw a curveball he’d make a fortune in the major leagues. Talented left-handers were rare.

But he’d failed at sports, too.

He brought the barrel to his temple.

The metal touched his skin.

He closed his eyes and tightened his finger on the trigger, imagining how his obituary would start. Tuesday, March 5, former investigative journalist Tom Sagan took his own life at his parents’ home in Mount Dora, Florida.

A little more pressure and—

Rap. Rap. Rap.

He opened his eyes.

A man stood outside the front window, close enough to the panes for Tom to see the face—older than himself, clean-cut, distinguished—and the man’s right hand.

Which held a photograph, pressed to the glass.

He focused on the image of a young woman lying down, arms and feet extended.

As if bound.

He knew the face.

His daughter.


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The Columbus Affair: A Novel 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The historical fabrication was somewhat interesting, but the characters were pretty much cardboard cutouts. What bothered me most, however, was the lack of copy editing...mistakes abounded, and were a distraction from the story. Are publishers no longer providing the services of copy editors to "polish" the story to remove misspellings, misappropriated pronouns, and unexplained shifts in language such as sometimes referring to distance in feet, and sometimes meters? (And not based on the perspective of the character, whether the unit of measurement reflected the nationality of the character - it wasn't that. It was just sloppy writing!) I seriously considered giving up midway through. I stuck it out, but more from my own stubbornness than enjoyment. I did want to find the resolution to the story, but felt the language was fighting me every step of the way. I've enjoyed Steve Berry's other books. This one, however, is worth a miss.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What an extremely original concept. Berry keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next. Even though most of it is fiction regarding Columbus and the Jewish communities in past history and now, the book absolutely will hold your attention. I will definitely read more of his work.
Sharon_Dunlevy More than 1 year ago
I am really surprised by some of the negative reviews, especially the overtly anti-Jewish one! This is a true Steve Berry with engaging characters, an exciting plot and lots of historical supposition. Yes the daughter is annoying - she is suppose to be. Tom Sagan's character is well developed and entirely believable as a former fearless journalist who has lost the will to live. Ignore the bad reviews and read this book!
eagle3tx More than 1 year ago
Glad I pre-ordered. I throroughly enjoyed this book. If I had not pre-ordered and only read the poor reviews below, I might not have given it a try. Luckily I read it first - and totally disagree with those reviewers. As with all Steve Berry books, he gives you the facts and the fiction at the end, and a remarkable lot of the underpinnings of the book fall solidly in the 'facts' column. Obviously, this being a novel, the facts can be strung together and interpreted a variety of ways, but that's what makes a good storyline. I found the daughter character totally annoying, but that's what made the character work. Anyone with teenaged sons/daughters knows how completely irrational they can be when they buy into something and 'know' that they're right and that the parental units are just old and stupid. Anyone who reads Steve Berry knows you need to suspend disbelief to get past some of the truly implausible and far-out stuff in the books, but you know that going in, and this was no more 'out-there' than several of the others, and in a lot of ways much more easily followed. I found this book much more historically satisfying than several of the earlier books..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Steve Berry's books and loved each one of them. Except for this one. It's awful. I am halfway through it and considering ending my misery. The plot is slow, the main male character is an arse, and the female character is annoyingly idiotic. She freezes in shock about something every few pages, gets an American intelligence agent murdered because of her freezing in shock, trusts all the wrong people even though everyone and their grandmothers tell her she's being stupid..... There is not a likeable character anywhere to be found and I have never wanted to slap a fictional character until Alle Beckett. If this hideous stereotype of the stupid, helpless female is what can be expected with Berry's new books, I'm no longer a fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is such a joy to read a quality REAL book! After reading so many 'bargain' books by fledgling writers with no grammar or spelling skills this book was truly a breath of fresh air. Loved the unique take on Columbus. After all, how much do we really know about events that took place over 600 years ago? This premise is just as valid as any. This is fiction, not a history book. And I enjoyed the rollicking story as such! Especially appreciated the Cotton Malone short "The Admiral's Mark" being included. READ IT FIRST!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great book from this author. Spellbinding and keeps you hanging through the whole book. Fantastic!
Laura50 More than 1 year ago
The Columbus Affair is a little different than his previous books in that it is not a thriller. I would categorize it as a treasure hunt mystery. I enjoyed it just the same and was glad that it read slow because I could savor it as I was reading. Alot of times when I am reading a thriller, I read it in one sitting and then am depressed that I have finished it because I want the story to go on. Here is the book description from the front cover blurb: I loved this book. It took me a week to read it because it is slowly paced. The historical questions about Christopher Columbus are intriguing and make me want to read more about him. Berry took liberties with the Christopher Columbus story but explained at the end what was fact and what was fiction. I highly recommend The Columbus Affair to mystery lover
SotTay More than 1 year ago
I am a big Steve Berry fan and have read all of his other books. I read the $0.99 quick book leading up this one, which involved Cotton Malone, but then this book did not, so I was a bit disappointed. Nonetheless, this is truly a classic Steve Berry, historical fiction book. The negative reviews are a bit unfair in my opinion. Yes, this book was a bit slower, but Berry had to introduce a whole new cast of characters. I was happy to have bought it and eagerly await his next book. If you like Steve Berry, or historical FICTION, that traverses the globe, then this is a definite buy.
Karisuecat More than 1 year ago
I'm not understanding the poor reviews..I loved this book and was hooked from the first page..It travels back in history with a suspenseful mystery that involves some people that you really don't know who's good or bad..It also ionvolve a father/daughter who have a very complex relationship..Highly recommend this book..
Billdog More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the entire story. The historical fabrication was most interesting and compelling to think of these issues around Columbus. \ I love it when readers forget that many books are a work of fiction and get all upset about the historical context or the minutia details of the story. Please remember it was a work of FICTION, not fact.
beadwmn More than 1 year ago
I love that Steve Berry's stories make you take a step back and think about what could be. The Fact or Fiction section is great and always lets you know whats real and whats not. This like his other books is fast paced and dose not leave you board or wondering why am I reading this.
DarkPrince More than 1 year ago
Excellent techno-thriller that grabs you right from the beginning! Character development was very strong and the story line kept wandering, keeping the reader in suspense! Great mixture of "history" with the present!
Mark-B More than 1 year ago
I got this book only because Steve Berry was the author. Definitely glad I did. Another great book from Steve Berry. Highly recommend this book.
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Adventure_Read More than 1 year ago
This Book is Beyond Awful i was very surprised with this Steve berry book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read! I would read it again.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoy the way that Berry writes. action packed could not put it down.
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rmd270 More than 1 year ago
This was a break from the usual Cotton Malone series but a thoroughly entertaining and interesting story. This story revolves around the mystery of Columbus the man and his voyages to the Caribbean. There is a lot of local flavor with many interesting historical references and theories to keep the story rolling along. The storyline covers Jamaica, Cuba, Vienna and Prague. Much of it involves the history of the Jewish people and the many progrom's inflicted upon the during the 1st and 2nd temples and of course WWII. I nicely paced action story with a rich and interesting ties to Columbus.