NOW IN PAPERBACK: ‘The Columbus Affair’: My Pick for One of 2012’s Most Entertaining Books

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
NOW IN PAPERBACK: 'The Columbus Affair': My Pick for One of 2012's Most Entertaining Books

I saw Steve Berry’s “The Columbus Affair” in a mass market paperback (Ballantine Books, 608 pages, $9.99) on the shelves of my local supermarket on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and one of the things that caught my eye in the front of the paperback was a quote from my review of the hardcover edition, which I reviewed last May (link to my review:}.

In addition to the full text of the hardcover edition, this paperback edition of “The Columbus Affair” also includes Berry’s short story “The Admiral’s Mark” and a sneak peek at his new novel, The King’s Deception, in the back of the book.

From my May review of the hardcover edition:


For 500 years historians have pondered the question
Who was Christopher Columbus?
The answer is simply another question:
Who do you want him to be? — Anonymous Observer, quoted in “The Columbus Affair”

In his standalone thriller “The Columbus Affair” (Ballantine Books, 448 pages, map, illustrations, $27.00) Steve Berry posits that Christopher Columbus was really Jewish by birth, born Christoval Arnoldo de Ysassi in the town of Genova, near Palma, on the Spanish island of Majorca and was a converso, a Sephardic Jew who converted to Christianity but still secretly practices his former faith.

This plot point is necessary because Berry delves into elements of Judaism and a bold plot by Zachariah Simon, an Austrian Jew who purports to be a scholar, but has the zeal of a fanatic in his efforts to restore the glory of ancient Israel in one of the most contested pieces of real estate in modern-day Jerusalem.

Steve Berry

Steve Berry

Simon has apparently kidnapped Alle Becket, the estranged daughter of disgraced journalist Tom Sagan, in an attempt to gain secrets that were buried with Abiram Sagan, Tom’s father and the spiritual guide of Alle, who converted to Judaism. Tom had married a gentile and, lacking any interest in religion, had been baptized, to please his wife but to the dismay of Abiram.

Conventional wisdom has it that Columbus was a native of Genoa, Italy — not Genova, Majorca — in service to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, but many theories swirl about his origins. In a lengthy writer’s note beginning on Page 421, Berry discusses Columbus’s origins, along with the Jamaica connection and the rumored lost mines on that Caribbean island. Berry, a serious student of history, references Simon Wiesenthal’s “Sail of Hope” theory that Columbus was a Jew (see below). Berry: “What is clear is that virtually nothing is known of Columbus. Accounts as to his birth date, birthplace, upbringing, parentage, education, and life radically conflict. No known portrait of him exists. Both the chart he used for navigation (chapter 8) and his original journal, Diario de a bordo, Outward Log, are gone (chapter 15)….That Columbus sailed before midnight on August 2, 1492, and that all Jews had to be gone from Spain by August 3, are facts (chapter 9). Columbus’ possible real name — Christoval Arnoldo de Ysassi — is more speculation.”


About the Author

Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of 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 15,000,000 printed 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 2,000 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 was named, in 2005, Georgia Author of the Year.

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 2,000 thriller writers from around the world—and served three years as its co-president.

For more information, visit


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