Top critical review
Cotton needs a long vacation with Cassiopeia
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 11, 2020
Steve Barry's latest installment, The Warsaw Protocol, in the long running Cotton Malone series falls a bit flat. Whereas Berry typically latches onto to a forgotten bit of historical minutiae or else resurrects a long standing point of contention and spins up a fanciful interpretation, this time out he makes up history, creates a caricature of a political figure, and throws in as an afterthought ancient religious artifacts for extra drama. The premise is that the 'new' US president (the longstanding Daniels is now a senator) wants missiles in Poland. Unfortunately, neither Poland, Europe, Russia, and anyone else wants this to happen. At the same time, a shadowy information dealer comes into possession of incriminating evidence against the Polish president and elects to auction the documents. Entry to the auction requires stealing religious artifacts that comprise the Alma Christi. Invitations have gone to major nations, US, Russia, China, Iran, etc. The dealer is double-crossed by both the Russians and another associate. Cotton is forced to deal with a fanatical US president who won't listen to reason as well as a sycophant who seems designed more for comedic value than thriller material. Furthermore the documents are hidden away in a salt mine that leads to boring chase scenes.
Overall, the setup was too contrived. The Solidarity double agent history was strained as well as the idea that someone who risked their life as a double agent, would somehow be skinned alive for ultimately acting in a life threatening patriotic manner. The idea that governments around the world would steal religious artifacts to attend an auction seems a bit over the top as well as believing anyone was getting out alive. Finally, conveniently, Cotton happens to personally know the Polish secret agent working the Polish side who also happens to be the lover of the president.
All in all, the plot strains credulity, while the historical thriller aspect of Malone tales ended up peripheral to the story. Please give Malone some needed R&R and return him to his roots.