The Columbus Affair

The Columbus Affair

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A family’s secret, a ruthless fanatic, and a covert arm of the American government—all are linked by a single puzzling possibility:
What if everything we know about the discovery of America was a lie? What if that lie was designed to hide the secret of why Columbus sailed in 1492? And what if that 500-year-old secret could violently reshape the modern political world?
Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Tom Sagan has written hard-hitting articles from hot spots around the world. But when one of his stories from the Middle East is exposed as a fraud, his professional reputation crashes and burns. Now he lives in virtual exile—haunted by bad decisions and a shocking truth he can never prove:  that his downfall was a deliberate act of sabotage by an unknown enemy. But before Sagan can end his torment with the squeeze of a trigger, fate intervenes in the form of an enigmatic stranger.  This stranger forces Sagan to act—and his actions attract the attention of the Magellan Billet, a top-secret corps of the United States Justice Department that deals with America’s most sensitive investigations. Sagan suddenly finds himself caught in an international incident, the repercussions of which will shudder not only Washington, D.C., but also Jerusalem. Coaxed into a deadly cat-and-mouse game, unsure who’s friend and who’s foe, Sagan is forced to Vienna, Prague, then finally into the Blue Mountains of Jamaica—where his survival hinges on his rewriting everything we know about Christopher Columbus.
Don’t miss Steve Berry’s short story “The Admiral’s Mark” and a sneak peek of his new novel, The King’s Deception, in the back of the book.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617079344
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 05/28/2012
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Lincoln Myth, The King’s Deception, The Columbus Affair, The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 40 languages with more than 18,000,000 copies in 51 countries.
History lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel. It’s this passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, that led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have traveled across the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners, and their popular writers’ workshops. To date, nearly 2,500 students have attended those workshops. In 2012 their work was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve the first spokesman for National Preservation Week. He was also appointed by the Smithsonian Board of Regents to serve on the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board to help promote and support the libraries in their mission to provide information in all forms to scientists, curators, scholars, students, and the public at large. He has received the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award and the 2013 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers. His novel The Columbus Affair earned him the Anne Frank Human Writes Award, and his historic preservation work merited the 2013 Silver Bullet from International Thriller Writers.
Steve Berry was born and raised in Georgia, graduating from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was a trial lawyer for 30 years and held elective office for 14 of those years. He is a founding member of International Thriller Writers—a group of more than 2,600 thriller writers from around the world—and served three years as its co-president.
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Read an Excerpt


Tom Sagan gripped the gun. He’d thought about this moment for the past year, debating the pros and cons, finally deciding that one pro outweighed all cons.

He simply did not want to live any longer.

He’d once been an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, knocking down a solid six-figure salary, his marquee byline generating one front-page, above-the-fold story after another. He’d worked all over the world—Sarajevo, Beijing, Johannesburg, Belgrade, and Moscow. But the Middle East became his specialty, a place he came to know intimately, where his reputation had been forged. His confidential files were once filled with hundreds of willing sources, people who knew he’d protect them at all costs. He’d proved that when he spent eleven days in a DC jail for failing to reveal his source on a story about a corrupt Pennsylvania congressman.

That man had gone to prison.

Tom had received his third Pulitzer nomination.

There were twenty-one awarded categories. One was for “distinguished investigative reporting by an individual or team, reported as a single newspaper article or a series.” Winners received a certificate, $10,000, and the ability to add three precious words—Pulitzer Prize winner—to their names.

He won his.

But they took it back.

Which seemed the story of his life.

Everything had been taken back.

His career, his reputation, his credibility, even his self-respect. In the end he became a failure as a son, a father, a husband, a reporter, and a friend. A few weeks ago he’d charted that spiral on a pad, identifying that it all started when he was twenty-five, fresh out of the University of Florida, top third of his class, a journalism degree in hand.

Then his father disowned him.

Abiram Sagan had been unrelenting.

“We all make choices. Good. Bad. Indifferent. You’re a grown man, Tom, and have made yours. Now I have to make mine.”

And that he had.

On that same pad he’d jotted down the highs and lows. Some from before, as editor of his high school paper and campus reporter at college. Most after. His rise from news assistant, to staff reporter, to senior international correspondent. The awards. Accolades. Respect from his peers. How had one observer described his style? “Wide-ranging and prescient reporting conducted at great personal risk.”

Then his divorce.

The estrangement from his only child. Poor investment decisions. Even poorer life decisions.

Finally, his firing.

Eight years ago.

And the seemingly nothing life since.

Most of his friends were gone. But that was as much his fault as theirs. As his personal depression had deepened he’d withdrawn into himself. Amazing he hadn’t turned to alcohol or drugs, but neither had ever appealed to him.

Self-pity was his intoxicant.

He stared around at the house’s interior.

He’d decided to die, here, in his parents’ home. Fitting, in some morbid way. Thick layers of dust and a musty smell reminded him that for three years the rooms had sat empty. He’d kept the utilities on, paid the meager taxes, and had the lawn cut just enough so the neighbors wouldn’t complain. Earlier, he’d noticed that the sprawling mulberry tree out front needed trimming, the picket fence painting.

He hated it here. Too many ghosts.

He walked the rooms, remembering happier days. In the kitchen he could still see the jars of his mother’s jam that once lined the windowsill. The thought of her brought a wave of an unusual joy that quickly faded.

He should write a note and explain himself, blame somebody or something. But to who? Or what? Nobody would believe him if he told them the truth. Unfortunately, just like eight years ago, there was no one to blame but himself.

Would anyone even care he was gone?

Certainly not his daughter. He hadn’t spoken to her in two years.

His literary agent? Maybe. She’d made a lot of money off his ghostwriting. He’d been shocked to learn how many so-called bestselling fiction writers could not write a word. What had one critic said at the time of his downfall? “Journalist Sagan seems to have a promising career ahead of him writing fiction.”


But he’d actually taken that advice.

He wondered—how do you explain taking your own life? It is, by definition, an irrational act. Which, by definition, defies explanation. Hopefully, somebody would bury him. He had plenty of money in the bank, more than enough for a respectable funeral.

What would it be like to be dead?

Were you aware? Could you hear? See? Smell? Or was it simply an eternal blackness. No thoughts. No feeling.

Nothing at all.

He walked back toward the front of the house.

Outside was a glorious March day, the noontime sun bright. Florida was truly blessed with some terrific weather. Like California, without the earthquakes, where he lived before his firing. He’d miss the feel of a warm sun on a pleasant summer’s day.

He stopped in the open archway and stared at the parlor. That was what his mother had always called the room. This was where his parents had gathered on Shabbat. Where Abiram read from the Torah. The place where Yom Kippur and Holy Days had been recognized. He recalled the sight of the pewter menorah on the far table burning. His parents had been devout Jews. After his bar mitzvah he, too, had first studied the Torah, standing before the twelve-paned windows, framed out by damask curtains his mother had taken months to sew. She’d been talented with her hands, a lovely woman, universally adored. He missed her. She died six years before Abiram, who’d now been gone three.

Time to end this.

He studied the gun, a pistol bought a few months before at an Orlando gun show, and sat on the sofa. Clouds of dust rose, then settled. He recalled Abiram’s lecture about the birds and the bees as he’d sat in the same spot. He’d been, what, twelve?

Thirty-eight years ago.

But it seemed like last week.

As usual, the explanations had been rough and concise.

“Do you understand?” Abiram asked him. “It’s important that you do.”

“I don’t like girls.”

“You will. So don’t forget what I said.”

Women. Another failure. He’d had precious few relationships as a young man, marrying Michele, the first girl who’d shown serious interest in him. But the marriage ended after his firing, and there’d been no more women since the downfall. Michele had taken a toll on him.

“Maybe I’ll get to see her soon, too,” he muttered.

His ex-wife had died two years ago in a car crash.

That was the last time he and his daughter spoke, her words loud and clear. “Get out. She would not want you here.”

And he’d left the funeral.

He stared again at the gun, his finger on the trigger. He steeled himself, grabbed a breath, and nestled the barrel to his temple. He was left-handed, like nearly every Sagan. His uncle, a former professional baseball player, had told him as a child that if he could learn to throw a curveball he’d make a fortune in the major leagues. Talented left-handers were rare.

But he’d failed at sports, too.

He brought the barrel to his temple.

The metal touched his skin.

He closed his eyes and tightened his finger on the trigger, imagining how his obituary would start. Tuesday, March 5, former investigative journalist Tom Sagan took his own life at his parents’ home in Mount Dora, Florida.

A little more pressure and—

Rap. Rap. Rap.

He opened his eyes.

A man stood outside the front window, close enough to the panes for Tom to see the face—older than himself, clean-cut, distinguished—and the man’s right hand.

Which held a photograph, pressed to the glass.

He focused on the image of a young woman lying down, arms and feet extended.

As if bound.

He knew the face.

His daughter.


Customer Reviews

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The Columbus Affair: A Novel 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 115 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The historical fabrication was somewhat interesting, but the characters were pretty much cardboard cutouts. What bothered me most, however, was the lack of copy editing...mistakes abounded, and were a distraction from the story. Are publishers no longer providing the services of copy editors to "polish" the story to remove misspellings, misappropriated pronouns, and unexplained shifts in language such as sometimes referring to distance in feet, and sometimes meters? (And not based on the perspective of the character, whether the unit of measurement reflected the nationality of the character - it wasn't that. It was just sloppy writing!) I seriously considered giving up midway through. I stuck it out, but more from my own stubbornness than enjoyment. I did want to find the resolution to the story, but felt the language was fighting me every step of the way. I've enjoyed Steve Berry's other books. This one, however, is worth a miss.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What an extremely original concept. Berry keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next. Even though most of it is fiction regarding Columbus and the Jewish communities in past history and now, the book absolutely will hold your attention. I will definitely read more of his work.
Sharon_Dunlevy More than 1 year ago
I am really surprised by some of the negative reviews, especially the overtly anti-Jewish one! This is a true Steve Berry with engaging characters, an exciting plot and lots of historical supposition. Yes the daughter is annoying - she is suppose to be. Tom Sagan's character is well developed and entirely believable as a former fearless journalist who has lost the will to live. Ignore the bad reviews and read this book!
eagle3tx More than 1 year ago
Glad I pre-ordered. I throroughly enjoyed this book. If I had not pre-ordered and only read the poor reviews below, I might not have given it a try. Luckily I read it first - and totally disagree with those reviewers. As with all Steve Berry books, he gives you the facts and the fiction at the end, and a remarkable lot of the underpinnings of the book fall solidly in the 'facts' column. Obviously, this being a novel, the facts can be strung together and interpreted a variety of ways, but that's what makes a good storyline. I found the daughter character totally annoying, but that's what made the character work. Anyone with teenaged sons/daughters knows how completely irrational they can be when they buy into something and 'know' that they're right and that the parental units are just old and stupid. Anyone who reads Steve Berry knows you need to suspend disbelief to get past some of the truly implausible and far-out stuff in the books, but you know that going in, and this was no more 'out-there' than several of the others, and in a lot of ways much more easily followed. I found this book much more historically satisfying than several of the earlier books..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Steve Berry's books and loved each one of them. Except for this one. It's awful. I am halfway through it and considering ending my misery. The plot is slow, the main male character is an arse, and the female character is annoyingly idiotic. She freezes in shock about something every few pages, gets an American intelligence agent murdered because of her freezing in shock, trusts all the wrong people even though everyone and their grandmothers tell her she's being stupid..... There is not a likeable character anywhere to be found and I have never wanted to slap a fictional character until Alle Beckett. If this hideous stereotype of the stupid, helpless female is what can be expected with Berry's new books, I'm no longer a fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is such a joy to read a quality REAL book! After reading so many 'bargain' books by fledgling writers with no grammar or spelling skills this book was truly a breath of fresh air. Loved the unique take on Columbus. After all, how much do we really know about events that took place over 600 years ago? This premise is just as valid as any. This is fiction, not a history book. And I enjoyed the rollicking story as such! Especially appreciated the Cotton Malone short "The Admiral's Mark" being included. READ IT FIRST!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great book from this author. Spellbinding and keeps you hanging through the whole book. Fantastic!
Laura50 More than 1 year ago
The Columbus Affair is a little different than his previous books in that it is not a thriller. I would categorize it as a treasure hunt mystery. I enjoyed it just the same and was glad that it read slow because I could savor it as I was reading. Alot of times when I am reading a thriller, I read it in one sitting and then am depressed that I have finished it because I want the story to go on. Here is the book description from the front cover blurb: I loved this book. It took me a week to read it because it is slowly paced. The historical questions about Christopher Columbus are intriguing and make me want to read more about him. Berry took liberties with the Christopher Columbus story but explained at the end what was fact and what was fiction. I highly recommend The Columbus Affair to mystery lover
SotTay More than 1 year ago
I am a big Steve Berry fan and have read all of his other books. I read the $0.99 quick book leading up this one, which involved Cotton Malone, but then this book did not, so I was a bit disappointed. Nonetheless, this is truly a classic Steve Berry, historical fiction book. The negative reviews are a bit unfair in my opinion. Yes, this book was a bit slower, but Berry had to introduce a whole new cast of characters. I was happy to have bought it and eagerly await his next book. If you like Steve Berry, or historical FICTION, that traverses the globe, then this is a definite buy.
Karisuecat More than 1 year ago
I'm not understanding the poor reviews..I loved this book and was hooked from the first page..It travels back in history with a suspenseful mystery that involves some people that you really don't know who's good or bad..It also ionvolve a father/daughter who have a very complex relationship..Highly recommend this book..
Billdog More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the entire story. The historical fabrication was most interesting and compelling to think of these issues around Columbus. \ I love it when readers forget that many books are a work of fiction and get all upset about the historical context or the minutia details of the story. Please remember it was a work of FICTION, not fact.
beadwmn More than 1 year ago
I love that Steve Berry's stories make you take a step back and think about what could be. The Fact or Fiction section is great and always lets you know whats real and whats not. This like his other books is fast paced and dose not leave you board or wondering why am I reading this.
DarkPrince More than 1 year ago
Excellent techno-thriller that grabs you right from the beginning! Character development was very strong and the story line kept wandering, keeping the reader in suspense! Great mixture of "history" with the present!
CountessRosie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating story, but the book itself was poorly edited.
labdaddy4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have always enjoyed Berry's book - light - easy reads - kind of a quick but interesting ride - mostly based on historical fact. This book is not up to the level of his others. I was never able to connect with the story or the characters. I hope he gets back to his previous level of quality and excitement.
RGazala on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On the second Monday of every October since it became an official federal holiday in 1937, Americans celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first arrival in the Americas in 1492. Similar official holidays commemorate the event in Latin and South America, and in Spain. Unofficial remembrances of Columbus' feat predate by hundreds of years the official holidays. But as Steve Berry amply demonstrates in his engaging new thriller, "The Columbus Affair," no one really knows much about the man they've been honoring in scads of Octobers dating back centuries -- perhaps because that is exactly the way Columbus wanted it.Among scant facts known surely is the date of Columbus' departure from Spain to find a new seaway to India. Columbus sailed from the Spanish port of Palos de la Frontera late on the evening of August 2, 1492, bare hours before Ferdinand and Isabella's royal deadline for all Jews to be gone from Spain by August 3. Combining these and the handful of other verifiable facts about Columbus with a myriad of mysteries surrounding everything about the storied explorer from his real name, to his actual birthplace and upbringing, to his physical appearance, to his true religion, Berry weaves an enthralling tale of dangerous modern-day treasure hunting spanning locales from Florida to Jamaica via Vienna, Prague and Cuba. The reluctant hunter at the novel's center is a bitter, broken man named Tom Sagan. Stripped of his family and profession for reasons both just and unjust, the disgraced former journalist finds his imminent suicide interrupted by a forced quest to discover the real Columbus and a legendary treasure, with Sagan's life and the life of his estranged daughter hanging on every perilous step he takes.Berry tells Sagan's captivating story with breakneck pacing, and the plot never slows down. Alone, those make the book a worthwhile read. The addition of a section at the novel's end titled "Writer's Note," where Berry shares the fruits and dead ends of his research into the real Columbus, makes the book even more engrossing.
zzshupinga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
ARC provided by Goodreads GiveawayFormer Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Tom Sagan is ready to end his life. He¿s been called a fraud, his career has ended, his daughter won¿t speak to him...what¿s left for him? And then...a stranger shows up on his doorstep saying that if Tom doesn¿t help him, his daughter will be killed. And Tom is pulled into a whirlwind adventure to solve a mystery dating back to Christopher Columbus and a lost treasure that has been missing for over 2,000 years. This journey will lead Tom, his daughter, and the stranger on a journey from Florida, to Europe, and to Jamaica where the mystery will finally be solved....and everything that we know about Christopher Columbus is changed. I¿ve just recently discovered Steve Barry¿s novels and was excited to be able to have a chance to read the ARC of his next book, The Columbus Affair. This book follows the similar pattern of his other works, being based in part on historical fact and incredibly well researched, with elements of fiction mixed in. But unlike his other books I¿ve read this one just didn¿t grab me the same way. In part, because I had trouble relating to the characters. While Tom was a some sympathetic character, his daughter and Simon (the stranger) just seemed completely devoid of any trace of reality. In fact any time the daughter opened her mouth and spoke I wanted to slap her because she came off as so shallow and stupid. I also thought the book was a bit too long. Halfway through the book I was convinced that we were almost done because it seemed like we had solved the mystery and the book had reached its climatic point and then it kept going on. But...even with these two faults the mystery created about the lost treasure, a different type of story about Christopher Columbus, and the history mixed in created an entertaining and interesting story that was worth the read in the end. Barry does an excellent job of research and weaving historical elements into the story. Overall I¿d give the book 4 out 5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent story once again by Steve Berry. As always it's like reading a history book and learning so much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the possibilities!
Mark-B More than 1 year ago
I got this book only because Steve Berry was the author. Definitely glad I did. Another great book from Steve Berry. Highly recommend this book.
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Adventure_Read More than 1 year ago
This Book is Beyond Awful i was very surprised with this Steve berry book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read! I would read it again.