'Columbus Affair' not Berry's best, but still good

The fantastical trips through history never seem to end for Steve Berry. The Florida author has written more than 10 books that combine real events, conspiracy theories and Indiana Jones-style adventures. They’re usually exciting, well-written stories that offer plenty of thought-provoking lessons.
But that isn’t the case with “The Columbus Affair.” The story has some enjoyable moments but they are few and far between. Some of the main characters, especially journalist Tom Sagan, felt underdeveloped or underutilized. And the plot — the mysteries surrounding Christopher Columbus — isn’t as thrilling as past Berry plots, say, the Knights Templar and the Masons (“The Templar Legacy“) and a secret society of pirates (“The Jefferson Key”).
But Berry is a motivated storyteller and indefatigable researcher, and there’s enough action and intrigue in “The Columbus Affair” to make it a tale worth reading. It just falls short when compared to the author’s previous works.
The story begins with Sagan sitting at his Florida home, gripping a gun. The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist “simply did not want to live any longer.” He has lost pretty much everything — including job and wife — after his controversial report on a war-torn region was labeled a fraud. He suspects it was a deliberate act of sabotage, but by who?
Before he pulls the trigger, he is paid a visit by Zachariah Simon, a fanatical Jewish businessman and scholar who is looking for an ancient secret treasure that somehow escaped the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Simon believes that Sagan knows where the treasure is located. He has kidnapped Sagan’s daughter and holds her for ransom. The journalist wants to save his daughter’s life and reluctantly agrees to go with Simon on a high-stakes journey that will affect the rest of their lives.
How does this involve Columbus? Well, the famed explorer and founder of the New World has a truly mysterious past. “The Columbus Affair” mines the theory that Columbus himself may have been a Jew and may have carried some or all of that treasure to the New World, particularly Jamaica, on his voyages.
Simon believes in this theory and is willing to burn the candle at both ends to obtain that treasure, which could cause serious cultural and geopolitical ramifications. The adventure starts in Florida, but goes to Vienna and Prague before reaching a climax in Jamaica.