Steve. The Amber Room. Ballantine. September 2003. c400p. ISBN
0-345-46003-0. $24.95. Fiction.
Berry’s debut novel is the second
thriller in recent years (after Jonathan Harris’s Seizing
Amber) to deal with the legendary Amber Room, a magnificent
work of art that the Germans looted from the Russians during
World War II and has since been lost. Berry tells the story
of two “Acquisitors,” Christian Knoll and Suzanne
Danzer, who are competing to find the room’s sumptuous
amber panels and exquisitely crafted furnishings, The wealthy
collectors they work for belong to a club called the Retrievers
of Lost (i.e., stolen) Antiquities. Complicating matters are
Rachel and Paul Cutler, ex-spouses with a prickly relationship.
Rachel is the daughter of Karol Borya, one of the last men
still living who may know the fate of the Amber Room. When
he is murdered, Rachel and Paul set out to discover the truth
and find themselves growing closer as their own fate hangs
in the balance. The author’s thorough research into the
art world dominates the story; even in the most desperate action
scenes, Berry doesn’t hesitate to inform the reader about
the architectural surroundings and other objets d’art.
(Unless you’re an expert, keep your art dictionary handy.)
Though the novel is uneven in pace, with frequent shifts in
viewpoint and occasionally forced plot developments, the intriguing
story and engaging characters are vivid enough to merit a recommendation
to most popular collections. Art lovers, in particular, will
enjoy the wealth of descriptive material.