Berry, Steve 1955-

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Berry, Steve 1955-

PERSONAL:

Born 1955; married; wife's name Amy; children: one daughter. Education: College graduate. Hobbies and other interests: Scuba diving, book collecting, golf.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Camden County, GA. Agent—Pam Ahearn, Ahearn Literary Agency, 2021 Pine St., New Orleans, LA 70118.

CAREER:

Attorney and writer. Member of the Camden County Board of Education and Camden County Board of Commissioners.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Third place, Florida First Coast Writers Festival, 1998; first place, Georgia State Bar fiction writing contest, 2000, 2001.

WRITINGS:

SUSPENSE NOVELS

The Amber Room, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.

The Romanov Prophecy, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2004.

The Third Secret, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2005.

The Templar Legacy, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2006.

The Alexandria Link, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Steve Berry is a trial lawyer who also writes international thrillers. His first two novels were inspired by his fascination with Russian culture and his- tory. The Amber Room deals with Nazi looting of Soviet art objects and an unsolved art mystery, while The Romanov Prophecy features an African-American hero caught in the midst of machinations to reestablish the Romanovs in Russia.

Published in 2003, The Amber Room is the result of much writing and rewriting, as well as incredible stubbornness on the part of Berry's agent, who sent it out to almost ninety editors before finding a publisher. Berry uses the famed Amber Room of Russia's Catherine Palace as the engine for his novel. The walls of this room were decorated in the middle of the eighteenth century with thousands of pieces of jewel-grade amber. These stones were polished and in some cases heated to change color, and then glued to the oak panels of the room to create vivid scenes and designs. The Amber Room panels survived the Bolshevik Revolution only to fall victim to Nazi art plundering. Since their disappearance during World War II, no trace has been found of these priceless works. Berry was inspired to write a thriller based on this historical footnote by the modern reconstruction of the Amber Room for the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg in 2003.

In Berry's story, two high-powered art hunters are competing to find the amber panels. One man, Karol Borya, might know their whereabouts, but he is killed. Upon his death, his daughter, a judge in Atlanta, and her ex-husband, Paul, set out to find Borya's killer. Their search serves only to cause more deaths, until finally they confront the killers in a Bavarian castle.

Reviewers of The Amber Room praised Berry's research, but they also had reservations about the writing in this first novel. Library Journal contributor Ronnie H. Terpening, for example, felt that Berry's "thorough research into the art world dominates the story." Terpening further noted that despite its "uneven" pace and "occasionally forced plot developments," Berry's "intriguing story and engaging characters are vivid enough to merit a recommendation." Similarly, a contributor to Publishers Weekly thought that this "hefty thriller" is "long on interesting research but short on thrills." The same reviewer further commented: "All the right elements are in place, but the book is far too long and not as exciting as the ingredients suggest." Stronger praise came from David Pitt, who commented in Booklist that the novel is "plotted cleverly and written with style and substance." Pitt also wrote that this debut from a lawyer-turned-writer is a "welcome change from the usual legal-thriller fare from wanna-be [Scott] Turows."

Once again using Russia as a setting, Berry serves up more history and speculative what-ifs with The Romanov Prophecy. Focusing on the restoration of the Romanov dynasty, Berry creates another protagonist lawyer from Atlanta; this time it is African American Miles Lord, who is sent by his law firm to Moscow to aid in the vetting of the lineage of Stefan Baklanov, who claims to be a Romanov. The premise is that the Russian people have voted to restore the monarchy, and Baklanov is the principal candidate for this "office." Lord makes waves in Russia when he discovers a document that suggests that two of Tsar Nicholas's children may have survived. Additionally, he finds that Baklanov is a suspect individual who is controlled by the mafia. Such knowledge is dangerous, and now Lord is a hunted man.

This second thriller earned higher praise from critics, including Terpening. Again writing in Library Journal, Terpening called The Romanov Prophecy "an accomplished thriller," and praised Berry for "skillfully blending fact with a contemporary tale of conspiracy." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that Berry provides a tale of "historically based international intrigue, swashbuckling action, [and an] indestructible hero from the American South." A Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that "Berry shows he's honed his craft since his somewhat shaky debut" in a "solid tale a cut above—and then some—many thrillers on the market."

Berry's next novel, The Third Secret, finds Father Colin Michener dealing with a conspiracy concerning an astounding Fatima prophecy. An effort to keep the prophecy secret leads to a murder involving a cardinal who wants to be the Pope. "Berry handles his thriller tradecraft skillfully, his descriptions are stellar, and … he offers a vivid re-creation of the majestic conclave" involved in electing a new Pope, wrote Ilene Cooper in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the author "serves tantalizingly true tidbits about the Church," adding that "his measured, elegant prose is a solid fit with the story."

In the The Templar Legacy, Berry incorporates legends about the monastic/military order known as the Knights of Templar to tell a story about a coding device stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The device may help the thieves unlock the early mysteries of Christianity. However, FBI agent Sean Reilly and archaeologist Tess Chaykin are on the thieves' trail, while former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone also becomes involved as a modern member of the Knights of Templar. In her review in Booklist, Ilene Cooper noted that the novel "has one of the most gripping opening scenes among recent thrillers." A Publishers Weekly contributor praised the author's "lively characters and action set pieces."

The Alexandria Link features the return of Cotton Malone. Now a bookseller in Copenhagen, Malone learns from his ex-wife that their son has been kidnapped. Shortly afterward, Cotton's bookstore is burned down by the kidnappers, who want Cotton to help them find the remains of the famous vanished library of Alexandria, which Malone has sworn not to do. In a review of The Alexandria Link in Booklist, Connie Fletcher commented that the author "does make intriguing use of ancient history, and the action certainly zooms along." Library Journal contributor Jeff Ayers noted Berry's use of "contemporary issues and page-turning thriller elements."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 22, 2004, Don O'Briant, "Author Finds Russia His Muse for Fiction," p. G1.

Booklist, July, 2003, David Pitt, review of The Amber Room, p. 1868; March 15, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of The Third Secret, p. 1245; December 15, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of The Templar Legacy, p. 5; November 15, 2006, Connie Fletcher, review of The Alexandria Link, p. 4.

Bulletin with Newsweek, February 27, 2007, Peter Pierce, review of The Alexandria Link, p. 55.

Entertainment Weekly, February 9, 2007, Paul Katz, review of The Alexandria Link, p. 78.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of The Amber Room, p. 817; July 15, 2004, review of The Romanov Prophecy, p. 644; April 1, 2005, review of The Third Secret, p. 367; January 15, 2006, review of The Templar Legacy, p. 53; November 15, 2006, review of The Alexandria Link, p. 1140.

Library Journal, June 15, 2003, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of The Amber Room, p. 98; May 1, 2004, Barbara Hoffert, review of The Romanov Prophecy, p. 86; July, 2004, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of The Romanov Prophecy, p. 66; February 1, 2006, Andrea Y. Griffith, review of The Templar Legacy, p. 68; January 1, 2007, Jeff Ayers, review of The Alexandria Link, p. 86; January 1, 2007, Jeff Ayers, "Q&A: Steve Berry," p. 94.

Publishers Weekly, June 2, 2003, review of The Amber Room, p. 29; August 9, 2004, review of The Romanov Prophecy, p. 230; April 25, 2005, review of The Third Secret, p. 35; December 19, 2005, review of The Templar Legacy, p. 37; April 3, 2006, review of The Templar Legacy, p. 67.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 2006, John Charles, review of The Templar Legacy, p. 389.

ONLINE

BookReporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (August 31, 2004) Joe Hartlaub and Wiley Saichek, interview with Berry; (May 30, 2005), interview with author; (February 24, 2006), interview with author; (April 28, 2006), interview with author; (February 2, 2007), interview with author; (August 2, 2007), "Author Profile: Steve Berry."

Steve Berry Home Page,http://www.steveberry.org (November 3, 2004).

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