Top critical review
2.0 out of 5 starsThe Bodies Pile up like Cord Wood
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on January 1, 2009
I've read a few other Berry thrillers (THE AMBER ROOM, THE ROMANOV PROPHECY), mainly to satisfy my Romanov jones. Berry usually does a pretty good job making the historical distortions palatable. That's not the case with THE CHARLEMAGNE PURSUIT. I wanted to know more about Charlemagne, but this is more about some crazy Nazi scheme to prove their Aryan ancestry.
The book is in trouble right off the bat in that there are too many characters, and each of them is given his/her own viewpoint. There's a villainous admiral who wants to be vice president who will stop at nothing to get there, including murdering people. There are three or four secret agents, some of whom work for the admiral. There are two crazy German sisters who hate each other and their mother who is even crazier. There is a professional hit man with more lives than a cat. The list goes on and on. Suffice it to say the bodies pile up like cord wood.
The Charlemagne reference has to do with a couple of books that the two German sisters own, one supposedly found in Charlemagne's grave. One of the books is in Latin, the other in some unintelligible language that the sisters and Cotton Malone, the main character, try to translate. It supposedly has to do with an advanced civilization that existed well before the Egyptians. And get this, it was supposed to be located beneath the ice cap in Antarctica.
Berry must have had a problem with some of this stuff himself because he includes a "writer's note" at the end, trying to fill some of the holes. For instance, there really is a NR-1 submarine; there really were two covert operations called Highjump and Windmill. There really is a Piri Reis map with advanced navigational references that existed before longitude and latitude and the prime meridian were agreed upon. He also takes a mild swing at science which denied the existence of continental drift; this is supposed to prove that there could have been an advanced civilization before the Egyptians.
What finally got me was the complete lack of motivation for the hatred of the two sisters. Was it supposed to have something to do with impressing their mother, or were they just crazy? The most likely explanation is that Berry needed them to behave that way, and that's author intrusion, a big no no.