The Jefferson Key (Cotton Malone Series #7)

The Jefferson Key (Cotton Malone Series #7)

by Steve Berry
3.8 496

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The Jefferson Key (Cotton Malone Series #7) by Steve Berry

Four United States presidents have been assassinated—in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963—each murder seemingly unrelated and separated by time.

But what if those presidents were all killed for the same reason: a clause in the United States Constitution—contained within Article 1, Section 8—that would shock Americans?
This question is what faces former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone in his latest adventure.  When a bold assassination attempt is made against President Danny Daniels in the heart of Manhattan, Malone risks his life to foil the killing—only to find himself at dangerous odds with the Commonwealth, a secret society of pirates first assembled during the American Revolution. In their most perilous exploit yet, Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt race across the nation and take to the high seas. Along the way they break a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson, unravel a mystery concocted by Andrew Jackson, and unearth a centuries-old document forged by the Founding Fathers themselves, one powerful enough—thanks to that clause in the Constitution—to make the Commonwealth unstoppable.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739329245
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/17/2011
Series: Cotton Malone Series , #7
Edition description: Abridged
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Steve Berry is the New York Times bestselling author of The Columbus Affair, 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, The Amber Room, and the short stories “The Balkan Escape” and “The Devil’s Gold.” His books have been translated into forty languages and sold in fifty-one countries. He lives in the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida, and is working on his next novel. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have founded History Matters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving our heritage. To learn more about Steve Berry and the foundation, visit

Read an Excerpt


6:13 pm

One mistake was not enough for Cotton Malone.

He made two.

Error number one was being on the fifteenth floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel. The request had come from his old boss Stephanie Nelle, through an email sent two days ago. She needed to see him, in New York, on Saturday. Apparently, the subject matter was something they could discuss only in person. And apparently, it was important. He'd tried to call anyway, phoning Magellan Billet headquarters in Atlanta, but was told by her assistant, "She's been out of the office for six days now on DNC."
He knew better than to ask where.

DNC. Do Not Contact.

That meant don't call me, I'll call you.

He'd been there before himself the agent in the field, deciding when best to report in. That status, though, was a bit unusual for the head of the Magellan Billet. Stephanie was responsible for all twelve of the department's covert operatives. Her task was to supervise. For her to be DNC meant that something extraordinary had attracted her attention.

He and Cassiopeia Vitt had decided to make a New York weekend of the trip, with dinner and a show after he discovered what Stephanie wanted. They'd flown from Copenhagen yesterday and checked into the St. Regis, a few blocks north of where he now stood. Cassiopeia chose the accommodations and, since she was also paying for them, he hadn't protested. Plus, it was hard to argue with regal ambience, breathtaking views, and a suite larger than his apartment in Denmark.

He'd replied to Stephanie's email and told her where he was staying. After breakfast this morning, a key card for the Grand Hyatt had been waiting at the St. Regis' front desk along with a room number and a note.

He'd wondered about the word exactly, but realized his former boss suffered from an incurable case of obsessive behavior, which made her both a good administrator and aggravating. But he also knew she would not have contacted him if it wasn't truly important.

He inserted the key card, noting and ignoring the do not disturb sign.

The indicator light on the door's electronic lock switched to green and the latch released.

The interior was spacious, with a king- sized bed covered in plush purple pillows. A work area was provided at an oak- top desk with an ergonomic chair. The room occupied a corner, two windows facing East 42nd Street, the other offering views west toward 5th Avenue. The rest of the décor was what would be expected from a high- class, Midtown Manhattan hotel.

Except for two things.

His gaze locked on the first: some sort of contraption, fashioned of what appeared to be aluminum struts, bolted together like an Erector Set. It stood before one of the front windows, left of the bed, facing outward. Atop the sturdy metal support sat a rectangular box, perhaps two feet by three, it too made of dull aluminum, its sides bolted together and centered on the window. More girders extended to the walls, front and back, one set on the floor, another braced a couple of feet above, seemingly anchoring the unit in place.

Was this what Stephanie meant when she'd said important?

A short barrel poked from the front of the box. There seemed no way to search its interior, short of unbolting the sides. Sets of gears adorned both the box and the frame. Chains ran the length of the supports, as if the whole thing was designed to move.

He reached for the second anomaly.

An envelope. Sealed. With his name on it.

He glanced at his watch. 6:17 pm.

Where was Stephanie?

He heard the shrill of sirens from outside.

With the envelope in hand, he stepped to one of the room's windows and glanced down fourteen stories. East 42nd Street was devoid of cars. Traffic had been cordoned off. He'd noticed the police outside when he'd arrived a few minutes ago.

Something was happening.

He knew the reputation of Cipriani across the street. He'd been inside before and recalled its marble columns, inlaid floors, and crystal chandeliers a former bank, built in Italian Renaissance style, leased out for elite social gatherings. Just such an event seemed to be happening this evening, important enough to stop traffic, clear the sidewalks, and command the presence of half a dozen of New York City's finest, who stood before the elegant entrance.

Two police cars approached from the west, lights flashing, followed by an oversized black Cadillac DTS. Another New York City police car trailed. Two pennants rose from either side of the Cadillac's hood. One an American flag, the other the presidential standard.
Only one person rode in that car.

President Danny Daniels.

The motorcade wheeled to the curb before Cipriani. Doors opened. Three Secret Service agents sprang from the car, studied the surroundings, then signaled. Danny Daniels emerged, his tall, broad frame sheathed by a dark suit, white shirt, and powder- blue tie.

Malone heard whirring.

His gaze found the source.

The contraption had come to life.

Two retorts banged and the window on the other side of the room shattered, glass plunging downward to the sidewalk seventy-five feet below. Cool air rushed inside, as did the sounds of a pulsating city. Gears spun and the device telescoped through the now empty window frame.

He glanced down.

The window's shattering had attracted the Secret Service's attention. Heads were now angled up, toward the Grand Hyatt.
Everything happened in a matter of a few seconds.

Window gone. Device out. Then—
Rat- tat- tat.

Shots were fired at the president of the United States.

Agents smothered Daniels to the sidewalk.

Malone stuffed the envelope into his pocket and raced across the room, grabbing hold of the aluminum frame, trying to dislodge the device.

But it would not budge.

He searched for and spotted no power cords. The thing, apparently a remote- controlled, high- powered weapon, kept firing. He saw agents trying to maneuver their charge back to the car. He knew that once Daniels was inside, armor plating would provide protection.
The device spit out more rounds.

He dove out the window, balancing himself on the frame, and grabbed hold of the aluminum box. If he could yank it from side to side, or up and down, at least he could deflect its aim.

He managed to force the barrel left, but motors inside quickly compensated.

Below, with incoming fire momentarily deflected, agents stuffed Daniels back into the car, which wheeled away. Three men remained, along with the policemen who'd been waiting at Cipriani.

Guns were drawn.

His second mistake now became evident.

They started firing.

At him.


Steve Berry on The Jefferson Key

Cotton Malone is known for his overseas exploits. A former-Justice Department operative, who can't stay out of trouble, he's found adventures in all parts of Europe (The Templar Legacy, The Paris Vendetta), Central Asia (The Venetian Betrayal), Antarctica (The Charlemagne Pursuit), the Middle East (The Alexandria Link), and China (The Emperor's Tomb). But he's never had an American adventure.

Until now.

The Jefferson Key was great fun to research. My wife Elizabeth and I traveled to New York City; Washington, D.C.; Bath, North Carolina; Monticello; and Richmond, Virginia. Monticello was particularly interesting since the terrific novelist, Katherine Neville--author of The Eight and The Fire--played host. Katherine serves on the estate's board of directors and she led us on a behind-the-scenes tour that helped formulate a number of scenes that would later appear in the book. We spent a wonderful day there, wandering the halls and staircases, snapping pictures, checking out every nook and cranny. In Richmond, we stayed at The Jefferson, a grand hotel that also makes an appearance in the story.

Bath, North Carolina was similarly intriguing. Three hundred years ago, Bath was a hotbed for Atlantic pirates, a bustling port and a ship building center. Its location, on a quiet inlet of the Pamlico River, not far from open ocean, made it ideal for both. And though it's now a sleepy village of about 300 residents, delving into its colonial and pre-colonial past was exciting. After all, pirates are fascinating--but they don't match the Hollywood stereotype. The real thing is even better, and The Jefferson Key deals with the real thing.

The research for this novel spanned 18 months, which is normal for my books. Along the way, we uncovered a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson; concocted a mystery for Andrew Jackson; and created a centuries-old document envisioned by the Founding Fathers themselves. It was fun exploring American history, especially the Constitution, which forms a huge part of this plot. With every book there's a challenge to describe the story in as few words as possible. For this one, we came up with this: Four United States presidents have been assassinated--in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963--each murder seemingly unrelated. But what if those presidents were all killed for the same reason--a clause in the United States Constitution, contained within Article 1, Section 8--that would shock Americans.

Got you interested?

I hope so.

Enjoy The Jefferson Key.

Customer Reviews

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The Jefferson Key 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 496 reviews.
Brad_W More than 1 year ago
Right from the start this book draws you in. Espionage, government secrecy, conspiracy, and a history lesson all wrapped up in one. Clear you calendar, because it's definitely a tough one to put down once you start.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Stephanie Nelle leaves a mysterious message for former Justice Department field operative Cotton Malone to meet her in New York immediately. Not one to ignore a summons from his former boss, Malone and his beloved Cassiopeia Vitt shut down their Copenhagen book store to fly to the States. In Manhattan, Malone observes an assassination attempt on President Danny Daniels, but intercedes this saving the life of POTUS. However, the Secret Service assumes he is the assassin and attacks him. He soon finds himself in further danger from the Commonwealth Society who has enforced Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution several times with four of them successful in 1865, 1881, 1901 and 1963. Malone learns of a Jeffersonian cipher deployed by Jackson after a failed assault but unused since. Meanwhile he and Vitt struggle to survive as Commonwealth Quartermaster Clifford Knox stalks them. The fugitive pair finds historical evidence of the intent of the Founding Fathers in ratifying that particular clause as the runaways are considered the traitors and the Commonwealth has the highest law in the land behind them. This is a brilliant exhilarating thriller that uses the Constitution and American history to frame a great tale that will have readers hooked throughout. After spending time overseas (see The Paris Vendetta and The Emperor's Tomb), Malone comes home only to be caught in the crosshairs of a secret powerful group applying Article 1 Section 8: "The Congress shall have the Power to . grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules on concerning Captures on Land and Water". Filled with stunning spins to American history, fast-paced from the opening 1835 Jackson assassination attempt to the final denouement, The Jefferson Key will be on the short list for best thriller of the year. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There were too many short chapters, with every one focusing on a different character. It was very confusing to keep up with. The story was alright, but too many references to other events in the series.
SuseNJ More than 1 year ago
Technically thrilling but actually boring! Too many main characters (8 or so), none of them developed in the least, and most of them with ugly names (Wyatt, Knox, Kaiser, Cotton, Carbonell...). Jarring switches from one character's actions to another's every page or so. Almost all action scenes, with the "action" being shooting and avoiding getting shot. Superficial. No real suspense due to sub-par writing, and I cared not a whit for what happened to any of the crowd, as I never got to know any of them. A couple of interesting history tidbits did not make up for all that. Couldn't wait to finish it so I could read something else.
brushmanDF More than 1 year ago
Steve Berry created a very complex character in Cotton Malone. It's great to see that Malone continues to evolve with the new love in his life. The story is a real page turner. Should be a must read series for all adventure enthusiasts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like Steve Berry books this is a must read. Interesting plot and characters. Keeps you interest from beginning to end.
cage47 More than 1 year ago
I love Berry's books both for their history and drama. The Jefferson Key is missing the excitement of his previous works as the villians are ridiculous with the brains of fleas and we were shown from the beginning that they were not to be taken seriously. The only one fighting against Malone with any spunk is a rogue agent he had called to task for a shooting. Hopefully his next novel will be better as the only thing that got me to finish this one was the history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Steve Berry is a great author. Keeps your interest alive. Cotton Malone and Cassiopia Vitt rock!! A must get book.
Novembers_Saturday More than 1 year ago
A very good novel! Lots of action and excitement to keep it moving rather fast. Full of interesting history as usual with Berry's writing. This is up your alley if you like historical fiction.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry This is the latest Cotton Malone book, but the first that is set in America. Mr. Berry Starts with the premise that the four presidential assassinations (1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963) although seemingly unrelated, were caused by the same reason. A group called The Commonwealth composed of pirates that were legalized by Article One, Section Eight of the United States Constitution: "The Congress shall have the power to declare War, grant letters of Marquee and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water." Thus, President George Washington on February 9th, 1793 granted a letter of Marque to Archibald Hale, and The Commonwealth was born. Ruled by four families: The Hales, The Cogburns, The Boltons, and the Surcoufs; they were granted license by Congress to pirate enemy ships, with the condition that they contributed 20% of their earnings to the US Treasury. They were to be called Privateers and they were instrumental in most of the wars fought by our country, up to, and including aiding in the Middle East conflict. However, in 1835, there was an attempt by the Commonwealth to assassinate President Andrew Jackson, and Jackson punished the Commonwealth by stripping all reference to their letter of marque from the official congressional reports. He hid it in a secret place, a place was coded by Thomas Jefferson. For 175 years it had not been decoded; so the pages were lost, therefore the original marque was null and void--making the Commonwealth desperate to find the document. Otherwise they could lose all their money and power, a thing President Danny Daniels wanted to do. The book opens with an email from Stephanie Nelle, chief of the Magellan Billet, to Cotton Malone, an old Billet agent, asking her to go to the Grand Hyatt in NYC as President Danny Daniels goes on a secret meeting to the city. Malone stops the murder attempt on the president but is met by an old nemesis--Jonathan Wyatt--also known as The Sphinx--who was also an agent. The suggestion is that every time the Commonwealth doesn't get what they want from the government they go to whatever lengths they have to--including assassinating the US President--to get what they want. The plot is complicate because Andrea Carbonell, the attractive, Cuban/American head of the NIA has greater ambitions as she fears for her job. She is playing the Commonwealth, Malone, and Wyatt against each other in order to solve the Jefferson Key and destroy the Commonwealth at any cost--and also get career advancement. In their most perilous exploit yet, Malone and her friend and lover, Cassiopeia Vitt, race across the nation and to the high seas. Along the way, they must break the Jefferson Key, unravel the mystery concocted by president Jackson, and unearth a centuries-old document forged by the Founding Fathers themselves, and the only thing that could bring survival to the dying institution of The Commonwealth. Typical Berry mystery, fun and entertaining.
Kelsey Thorn More than 1 year ago
This novel is a true page turner! Packed full of history and accusations, it will certainly make your head spin. Get comfortable because you won't be able to put this one down!
Anonymous 11 months ago
This book was absolutely a chore to finish. The first half was so slow that I had to force myself to keep reading. The second half was too full with short sections flipping back and forth between way too many characters. The story lacked cohesion and the plot was way overdone. Too many characters and far too lengthy for what should have been a much simpler story. Stephanie Clanahan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first few books this series are actually quite good. But with time, the series just fell into a repetitive cycle of predictable plot twist and mostly dull storytelling. He uses some of the same story ideas for every book. Like destroying world heritage sites such as museums (he even makes fun of this in this particular book). Over all this is just not worth reading anymore
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of action.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was not typical Steve Berry. I found it to be very fragmented and at times very boring. Most of the characters in this book were not very likeable, including the so called good guys. He could also have told this story with 125 less pages. I'm still a fan though, All authers are entitled to a bomb every once in awhile!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fu,ck u dominic it seems like u won
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BuzzinBill More than 1 year ago
Like all of the Cotton Malnoe series books this one follows the same formula for sequence of events. But they are still very good books, if for no other reason than the historical accuracy Mr. Berry maintains, along with the writers notes that detail what is and is not fictional in the book. They are well written and occur in interesting settings.
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