Dan Brown has made a habit of initiating feuds with subsets of various religions, whether its Opus Dei in The Da Vinci Code or the Freemasons in The Lost Symbol. One has to imagine that Mormons, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, may respond similarly to Steve Berry’s revisionist history thriller about how a deal between Abraham Lincoln and Brigham Young threatens to unravel the democratic union of the United States in the present day. Slowly building to an explosive finale, Berry’s The Lincoln Myth again steers Cotton Malone out of quiet book selling and spy retirement into Jason Bourne territory, where he and those on his side must save the world.
After a brief 19th century interlude, we’re launched into the life of Malone, who responds to his previous boss, the U.S. Justice Department’s Stephanie Nelle, and finds his quiet life ripped away. Soon, he and a new agent, Luke Daniels, are tracking a radical Mormon named Josepe Salazar from Denmark to Utah, as political moves are made in back rooms to cover up truths that have been kept secret for nearly two centuries. But complicating matters is the fact that Nelle has also sent Malone’s girlfriend, Cassiopiea Vitt, into Salazar’s inner circle because Vitt was Salazar’s adolescent love.
I know little-to-nothing about Lincoln and the Mormons but there’s some interesting stuff out there. [If you’re interested, you can check out Ted Widmer’s essay for the NY Times here. Most of the other top links are provided by Mormon publications.] What is clear is how fragile the various bends and conflicts of the road toward a “more perfect union” were, and how little most of us really consider the fragility of all of that. The book challenges our expectations (or childhood history) about the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and Abraham Lincoln’s involvement! But enough about the history itself.
Putting aside the wealth of real and fabricated Mormon history that we read about, there is a real sense that Cotton Malone fights for his love, that is, Cassiopiea Vitt. He’s set up to believe she’s on her own with Salazar even as he knows that Nelle is manipulating him. His heart, and his level of commitment, cause him to throw himself beyond the realms of his musty book store and explore that world again which he seems to leave behind in between books! But honestly, without his dedication, all would be lost.
Again, Berry has delivered an engrossing, multi-layered tale of courage, camaraderie, love, and patriotism, in the midst of an ever-changing world that remains strongly tied to our historic but still fluid past.
Buy it here!