Veteran thriller author Steve Berry’s new book The Jefferson Key is a combination of historical fact, action-packed fiction, intriguing characters, and a plot that transcends the bounds of time and geography.

Using the attempted assassination of a U.S. president as his jumping-off point, Berry brings in his faithful hero, former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone, and sultry sidekick Cassiopeia Vitt to help solve the crime. Along the way, Malone works through a complex maze of clues that includes an organization known as the Commonwealth, composed of descendents of 18th-century pirates; a secret code linked to Thomas Jefferson; and a passel of scheming scalawags past and present.

The North Carolina twist in The Jefferson Key comes into play with the connection between pirates and privateers throughout time. Berry sets his scenes in Bath and the Pamlico Sound region, where Commonwealth leader Quentin Hale plots mischief as his privateer ancestors did in the same area for generations. Hale harbors his main complaint with the U.S. government, which he feels once gave his organization tacit approval to carry on with its privateering ways.

The Jefferson Key is not a one-dimensional book, which makes it more interesting. In addition to weaving in several subplots, Berry also seamlessly shifts locations and time periods. Fans of the mystery and thriller genres will discover that The Jefferson Key unlocks another interesting chapter in Berry’s literary lineup.

Ballantine Books, 2011, 462 pages, hardcover, $26.

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