The King’s Deception

Written by Steve Berry

Steve Berry is described on the back cover of this book as ‘the conspiracist’s conspiracist’. Indeed he is. The inside front cover lists 15 of his books, all of which to my knowledge are conspiracy novels. What fresh twists can Berry bring to the genre?

The twist in The King’s Deception is that the guardian of the dreadful secret is none other than the British government, acting through the agency of MI6 (or is it MI5, since the Home Secretary seems to be in charge?). The person trying to unmask the secret is a CIA agent, in the hope that the US government can use it to blackmail Britain into blocking the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

MI6 wins, with the help of another US agent who is working at cross-purposes with the CIA, but only after the head of MI6 is shot dead by one of his own agents. So the secret is saved, except that the surviving American agent tells it to his ex-wife, which forms the narrative of the book. Can you really have a conspiracy novel in which the Secret remains successfully hidden?

The action takes place entirely in England, and Berry claims to have visited all the locations, but please, Surrey is not in the Cotswolds. The snippets of historical background are also sometimes shaky – Ireland never achieved Home Rule in the 19th century. On a broader point, it seems unlikely that a 21st-century British government would be embarrassed by a Tudor scandal, however monumental. However, all Berry’s books are entertaining nonsense, written with immense verve. Read it as a thriller, rather than as history.