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The Venetian Betrayal: A Novel (Cotton Malone), by Steve Berry (Read by Scott Brick)

Not unlike Clark Kent with his alter ego Superman, Cotton Malone would like to enjoy a quiet life as a man of letters. In his case, it's as the owner of a rare books store. But like Clark Kent, when the forces of evil need to be contained, Cotton is society's "go-to guy," and the mild mannered bibliopole becomes a relentless seeker of justice. Irina Zovastrina, as the supreme minister of the Central Asia Federation, is a sociopath intent on the destruction of the Middle East and on earning the title of queen of biowarfare. An impassioned student of Alexander the Great, she's convinced that by finding his final resting place, she'll be able to enact her plans. Alternately helping and thwarting her are a virologist and a secret society of world business leaders known as the Council of 10. The clues she needs to locate Alexander's tomb can be found on ancient coins, and when the acquisition of the coins leads to murder and arson, Cotton steps in. Joining him in trying to maintain world peace are old friends and former co-agents, Cassiopeia Vitt and Stephanie Nell.

This is Steve Barry's third book featuring Cotton Malone in a life and death quest to unearth something. The earlier books, The Templar Legacy and The Alexandria Link, also dealt with modern treks through sites of ancient history. Barry presents extensive background on Alexander's death and on his reaction to the death of his friend Hephestion. Through Irina, he discloses information about Alexander's military tactics and weaponry. Although both the good guys and the bad guys have access to cutting edge technology available only to big governments and rogue computer geeks, it's interesting that one of the weapons of choice is the insidious Greek fire of 600 AD.

Even if this weren't a thrilling and suspenseful story, narrator Scott Brick could make it so. His dry, down-to-earth manner is perfect for Cotton Malone and the characters who surround him. Brick's accented voices are believable without being caricature-like.

This audio book is highly recommended as an absorbing thriller with memorable characters-both those you love and those you love to hate. The historical references to Alexander's times and to ancient medicines inspire further research, which can only lead to personal enlightenment. What's not to like?

Ruth Mormon

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