The Amber Room is one of the greatest treasures ever made by man: an entire room forged of exquisite amber, from its four massive walls to its finely crafted furniture. But it is also the subject of one of history's most intriguing mysteries. Originally commissioned in 1701 by Frederick I of Prussia, the Room was later perfected Tsarskoe Selo, the Russian imperial city. In 1941, German troops invaded the Soviet Union, looting everything in their wake and seizing the Amber Room. When the Allies began the bombing of Germany in August 1944, the Room was hidden. And despite the best efforts of treasure hunters and art collectors from around the world, it has never been seen again.
First-time novelist Berry weighs in with a hefty thriller that's long on interesting research but short on thrills. Atlanta judge Rachel Cutler and ex-husband Paul are divorced but still care for each other. Rachel's father, Karol Borya, knows secrets about the famed Amber Room, a massive set of intricately carved panels crafted from the precious substance and looted by Nazis during WWII from Russia's Catherine Palace. The disappearance of the panels, which together formed a room, remains one of the world's greatest unsolved art mysteries. Borya's secret gets him killed as two European industrialists/art collectors go head to head in a deadly race to find the fabled room. Searching for Borya's killer, Rachel and Paul bumble their way to Europe, where their naivet triggers more deaths. Berry has obviously done his homework, and he seems determined to find a place for every fact he's unearthed. The plot slows for descriptions of various art pieces, lectures and long internal monologues in which characters examine their innermost feelings and motives in minute detail, while also packing in plenty of sex and an abundance of brutal killings. A final confrontation between all the principals ends in a looming Bavarian castle where Rachel is raped. All the right elements are in place, but the book is far too long and not as exciting as the ingredients suggest. Readers may end up wishing Berry had written a nonfiction account of the fascinating story of the Amber Room and skipped the fictional mayhem. Agent, Pam Ahearn. (Sept.) Forecast: The Amber Room has been in the news again lately (a long New Yorker piece on its history ran earlier this year), because the panels are presently being re-created for the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg this year. The attention may spark interest in Berry's debut, but less-than-stellar word of mouth may cause sales to peak early. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from The Amber Room by Steve Berry
Atlanta, Georgia Tuesday, May 6, the present, 10:35 a.m.
Judge Rachel Cutler glanced over the top of her tortoiseshell glasses. The lawyer had said it again, and this time she wasn ' t going to let the comment drop. ' Excuse me, counselor. '
' I said the defendant moves for a mistrial. '
' No. Before that. What did you say '
' I said, ' Yes, sir. ' '
' If you haven ' t noticed, I ' m not a sir. '
' Quite correct, Your Honor. I apologize. '
' You ' ve done that four times this morning. I made a note each time. '
The lawyer shrugged. ' It seems such a trivial matter. Why would Your Honor take the time to note my simple slip of the tongue '
The impertinent bastard even smiled. She sat erect in her chair and glared down at him. But she immediately realized what T. Marcus Nettles was doing. So she said nothing.
' My client is on trial for aggravated assault, Judge. Yet the court seems more concerned with how I address you than with the issue of police misconduct. '
She glanced over at the jury, then at the other counsel table. The Fulton County assistant district attorney sat impassive, apparently pleased that her opponent was digging his own grave. Obviously, the young lawyer didn ' t grasp what Nettles was attempting. But she did. ' You ' re absolutely right, counselor. It is a trivial matter. Proceed. '
She sat back in her chair and noticed the momentary look of annoyance on Nettles ' s face. An expression that a hunter might give when his shot missed the mark.
' What of my motion for mistrial ' Nettles asked.
' Denied. Move on. Continue with your summation. '