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Cover image from goodreads.com

The 16th Amendment to the Constitution is why Americans pay income taxes. But what if there were problems associated with that amendment? Secrets that call into question decades of tax collecting? In fact, there is a surprising truth to this hidden possibility.

Cotton Malone, once a member of an elite intelligence division within the Justice Department known as the Magellan Billet, is now retired and owns an old bookshop in Denmark. But when his former-boss, Stephanie Nelle, asks him to track a rogue North Korean who may have acquired some top secret Treasury Department files—the kind that could bring the United States to its knees—Malone is vaulted into a harrowing twenty-four hour chase that begins on the canals in Venice and ends in the remote highlands of Croatia.

With appearances by Franklin Roosevelt, Andrew Mellon, a curious painting that still hangs in the National Gallery of Art, and some eye-opening revelations from the $1 bill, this riveting, non-stop adventure is trademark Steve Berry—90% historical fact, 10% exciting speculation—a provocative thriller posing a dangerous question: What if the Federal income tax is illegal?

(Story synopsis from book jacket.)

For the past few years I have been reading Steve Berry‘s series featuring the character Cotton Malone. I happened upon this series by accident, but ever since I have kept up with Malone who finds his way into amazing situations, all of which (of course) could impact our history.

The Patriot Threat is actually #10 in the Cotton Malone series, but I believe that this novel could actually be read on its own if a person had never read any of the other books in the series. In this novel there are only minor references to past characters, but the driving force of the novel is not reliant upon Cotton’s past experiences.

In The Patriot Threat, Berry presents the possibility that the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution may not have been ratified in the correct way. As usual, Berry has done an amazing job of combining fact and conjecture into one of his novels. By presenting the possibility that if this situation were true, then the Federal income tax would be considered illegal and the government would owe an amazing amount of money back to the people of the United States. But the other part of it that Cotton Malone and his colleagues must deal with is, what would happen if that information fell into the hands of the wrong person? What would someone from North Korea, who is seeking to be in power, do with that information to catapult his ascension to be the most powerful person?

The Patriot Threat provides a great mystery for the reader, but also forces the reader to consider the possibility that the government has a huge secret that could change everything. With different players across the world, Malone and his team must figure out not only how to retrieve missing documents, but also how to contain the critical information that could devastate the U.S. government. The action-packed novel is also one that presents many questions, also calling to mind for the reader, “What would you do if you were faced with these choices?”

Berry once again delivers a great novel to the reader and The Patriot Threat is another great example of what could happen if our history is not exactly as we think it is. This is a great novel for those with curious minds.

(To see all of Steve Berry’s novels, visit his website at http://steveberry.org/ and see how he explores significant events in history through his books.)