Book Review: The 14th Colony by Steve Berry

The 14th Colony, which is the 11th book in the Cotton Malone series, is a political thriller that explores what would happen if the president-elect and VP-elect both died before the inauguration. It’s an interesting concept and I enjoyed the Cold War references, but I would say this book falls under the category of “brain candy” – it’s mildly entertaining and I’ll soon forget it.

I read The 14th Colony as part of the 2020 Thoughtful Reading Challenge. November’s challenge was to read a political thriller in honor of the US Presidential election.

For those of you not familiar with the series, Cotton Malone is a retired intelligence agent who now owns a rare book store and also does freelance operative work for a US intelligence agency. The novel begins with a flashback to a meeting between Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, during which they plot the demise of the USSR. This sets the tone for the Cold War backdrop that permeates the story. Then, the current day action begins with Cotton flying to Siberia (he’s also a pilot, of course) to check on the status of a former, aging KGB archivist, about whom there’s been intelligence chatter.
The 14th Colony
While in Siberia, Cotton encounters Aleksander Zorin, a former KGB agent that hasn’t given up his Soviet ways. He’s a hard liner that believes he still has a score to settle with the US on behalf of the motherland. He’s still on a mission to carry out a covert operation assigned to him and three other KGB agents decades ago by Yuri Andropov (remember him?!?). The operation was intended to exploit a couple of significant US weaknesses the USSR had identified.

One of those weaknesses is regarding succession rules in the case where the president-elect and VP-elect die before taking the oath of office on January 20. Let’s just say the laws are contradictory and that scenario would cause chaos, lots of court cases, and plenty of government officials jockeying for position. In other words, I really hope 2020 didn’t read this book for ideas about how to end with a bang!

The other weakness is a mystery that sends some of Cotton’s teammates on a search for a journal written in the early 1800s by America’s first spy master.

The team is on a race against time as the inauguration approaches and a devastating attack appears imminent. The chase takes us from Russia, to Canada, to rural Virginia, to Washington DC. And there are plenty of shoot outs, DC politics, car chases, and historical references along the way.

I liked the Cold War aspects of this book, probably because I’m a child of the 80s and was stationed in Germany with the Army when the wall came down. The idea of a former KGB agent that couldn’t accept the new world order was clever. I also liked the history that was revealed during the hunt for the journal and the lack of clear succession planning was new to me.

Despite having many elements I liked, I found the book average. It was moderately entertaining but some of the scenes seemed too forced and a little too unbelievable, like Cotton taking control of a Russian fighter jet and a female Navy officer taking out three heavily armed Russian soldiers with just a knife. I’m willing to suspend some belief when reading this type of novel but this was a bit much. Additionally, the romances were kind of awkward and seemed like after thoughts. I could have done without them. And would clever KGB agents really not know that their rental car could be tracked by GPS?

If I used a star rating system, I would give The 14th Colony three out of five stars. It’s not bad but there are better books to spend your time on.

Did you read a political thriller this month? Tell us all about it!

Reminder: December’s challenge is to read a book with a religious theme. Let’s end 2020 on a spiritual note! (BTW – I’ll be introducing the 2021 reading challenge soon.)

Hoping everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The 14th Colony by Steve Berry

  1. Ditto to your review! This book was entertaining and full of action but this one won’t stick with me either. I was enjoying the book quite a bit up front until Cotton took control of the MiG. Oh, and also was able to communicate with another passenger in another jet on a separate radio frequency. Wait, what?! It was at that point that I realized this one might get a bit far fetched.

    The Cold War parts along with the historical references to the early 1800s were clearly the most interesting parts for me. Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to ever be stationed in Germany! I had forgot all about the British burning down the White House! Naturally, when I realized that this was the 11th in the Cotton Malone series, it made it pretty obvious how it would eventually end. Still, it was entertaining and a quick read despite being over 400 pages long.

    The Society of the Cincinnati was of particular interest to me both for the historical relevance as well as that our oldest daughter actually received a scholarship while in college from The Daughters of the Cincinnati! I enjoyed learning about the Society of the Cincinnati and found it fascinating that learn more about the roots of our daughter’s scholarship. A very interesting organization.

    This was not my favorite genre but it was fun to read a book that I would not normally choose to read. That’s the cool part about the monthly reading challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting about the Society of Cincinnati. I had never heard of it and assumed the author was making it up, but he mentioned in the writer’s notes at the end that it was real.

      And thanks for the plug for the reading challenge! Because of it, I’ve read several good books that I wouldn’t have normally read.


  2. The December reading challenge may be a tough one. Suggestions? If we hadn’t already read Peace Like a River, by Engel, I might have chosen that. I wonder if “North of Hope” (by Jon Hassler) would qualify. Read it a while ago and remember it involved a priest and I liked the book, maybe the author has a similar one. All I can picture otherwise are Hallmark Channel too sweet to be true stories. Deb

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Deb! I’m going to read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. If you’re not familiar with the book, it contains a lot of content from his radio broadcasts during WWII. I was also considering Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, which is a witty work of fiction that explores the devil and devilish things like temptation.


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