The Columbus Affair

Written by Steve Berry
Review by Edward James

This is a conspiracy thriller, a Quest that keeps closely to the rules of the genre, rules which Steve Berry has followed in several previous novels. There is a secret which has been guarded over the centuries by a group of initiates, and several interest groups in the modern world are competing to possess it for their own ends. The hero, usually a naïve innocent, gets involved partly by chance and has to beat the bad guys to the secret to save the world from dreadful consequences.

Columbus is a perfect subject for a conspiracy novel because we know nothing about his early life except from his own conflicting accounts. He turns up at the Spanish frontier in his forties with nothing but a donkey and a four-year-old child; a destitute, unemployed, single parent, illegal immigrant. Could anything be more remarkable than his subsequent career? Steve Berry improves on it by discovering that Columbus was a secret Jew (this has been suggested before and is possible) who knew the whereabouts of the lost treasures of the Temple and sailed to America to hide them.

Some people object that such books are not true historical novels. Although there is a lot of history, most of the action takes place in the present. Quest novels play with history rather than recreating it. They are silly but fun.