I finished Steve Berry's Alexandria Link and it was a wonderful read. This was Berry's 5th book, following on The Templar Legacy and being populated with many of the same characters (e.g. Cotton Malone, Henrik Thorvaldsen, Cassopeia Vitt, Stephanie Nelle) who were major protagonists in the earlier book.
There are two aspects of these books that draw me in. First, the characters are human, not superhuman. By that I mean they have the emotions of real people and those emotions color their actions, no matter how heroic they may be. Secondly, in the blending of fact and fiction, Berry presents us with stories that are plausible. He starts with what is known historically and embellishes it with a tale of what could have been the case. He selects topics about which there has been historical and theological controversy and weaves wonderful, thoughtful mysteries that keep the reader on edge. We can imagine for ourselves how different the world might have been if the stories had been true, or the new fictionally discovered "facts" had been uncovered for all to see.
One other factor that made The Alexandria Link interesting to me is that I picked it up just after reading Berry's first novel, The Amber Room. The contrast in writing between the two is amazing. It was clear how far Berry has come as a writer. I don't mean that as a criticism of the first novel. I do mean it as a compliment to the author's evolution in story telling. The first book was very good. The Alexandria Link was much better and more satisfying. The characters were developed more fully. Their participation in the unwinding story moved forward naturally. I never felt that anything was contrived in any way. I think we should read author's first and latest novels side-by-side more often. It really allows us to see how they develop in the way they exhibit their craft.
Alas, the "books-to-be-read-shelf" is bare for the moment. It feels strange to embark on my daily walk empty-handed. It's time to get to the bookstore and obtain more fuel to feed the mind's appetite.