A Book Spy Review: ‘The Atlas Maneuver’ by Steve Berry


Former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone is back and better than ever in this gripping new novel from New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry.

Set after the events of The Last Kingdom (2023), Cotton Malone has officially retired from the Magellan Billet, the secret division inside the Justice Department where he’s worked for well over a decade, and is now enjoying his quiet new life as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen. It’s a career move that’s long been in the works. Though he’s been an effective operator and knows he can still kick in doors and get the job done when needed, Cotton has wanted to settle down for some time. Yet each time he tries, fate always seems to get in the way, and that’s exactly what happens here when a friend asks for a favor, kicking off a chain of events that takes Cotton Malone on one of his wildest and most dangerous adventures yet.

The friend in need of a favor is the CIA’s European station chief, Derrick Koger, who asks Cotton to protect a bank employee by the name of Kelly Austin in Switzerland. It’s a temporary assignment, and an easy one at that. Or so says Koger when he pitches the idea to Cotton, who reluctantly goes along with his old friend’s request. Right away, Cotton suspects that neither Koger nor Austin is being completely honest with him, but before he can get any real answers, there’s an attempt on the woman’s life, and Cotton is forced to step in and save the day. That leads to two major revelations. First, Cotton discovers that Kelly Austin is connected to the Bank of St. George in Luxembourg, the same bank where it’s believed that the Japanese hid millions of dollars worth of gold at the tail-end of World War II. More jarring, though, is the fact that Kelly Austin isn’t really who Koger said she was. In fact, that isn’t even her real name. How does Cotton know that? Because the woman in disguise is someone he has a long history with, and once she’s unmasked, the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place. 

As the story unfolds, Cotton realizes that he’s inadvertently found himself in a war between the world’s oldest bank and the CIA . . . and that the only way to survive is to expose a conspiracy involving cryptocurrency—one that’ll leave Cotton, and readers, questioning everything they think they know about bitcoin.

Steve Berry has long drawn comparisons to fellow bestselling author Dan Brown, which feels right on the money (pun intended) here as his latest offering takes readers down the rabbit hole of cryptocurrency, exploring how digital currencies could, in theory, one day be weaponized. A quick six-page prologue set in the Philippines during the summer of 1945 helps to get the reader up to speed on something called the Black Eagle Trust, which plays a big role in the overall story, which is probably Berry’s most exciting premise since The Lost Order (2017). Part of the joy of reading Berry’s work is how much you learn along the way, all while being entertained and pulled into a story that, at times, feels a tad too real for comfort. There are stretches where there’s not much action, but pay attention because Berry uses those down moments to set up his plot, which is intricate and layered, constantly offsetting the action with steady character development and story beats you’ll need to know later on. When the action does start, it pops, with Berry proving he still knows his way around a gunfight. So does Cotton, who though he is no Jason Bourne, still has the skills to pull off some cool stuff when the moment calls for it. Overall, if you’re a fan of Dan Brown or Brad Meltzer, you’re going to love this book.

Steve Berry is back with another adventure that weaves an exciting tale of history with a chilling conspiracy, creating the kind of conflicting reading experience where you want to read slow and savor but just can’t put book the down and end up knocking it out in a single sitting. The Atlas Maneuver delivers one thrill after another and is easily Berry’s best book in years.

Book Details

Author: Steve Berry
Series: Cotton Malone #18
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1538721031
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: February 20, 2024



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, is also in bookstores, and his third book, OUT FOR BLOOD, comes out on June 4th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. To interact with other readers and talk about your favorite books and authors, join The Real Book Spy’s Discord server.


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