Written by the American author and former attorney Steve Berry, the Cotton Malone series is about Cotton Malone (of course), a one-time top operative with the Magellan Billet, a division inside the U.S. Justice Department.
After leaving the Billet, Cotton Malone moved to Amsterdam and purchased an old and rare bookstore. From time to time, he will be called back by his old boss at the Billet to assist in various investigations. There’s also a spin-off that revolves around the character of Cassiopeia Vitt. More about that in our article about the Cassiopeia Vitt Adventures.
How to read the Cotton Malone Series in Order?
Every entry in the Cotton Malone book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
Here is the full guide to the Cotton Malone books in order, with short stories (you can skip them if you want):
- “The Admiral’s Mark“ (2012) (short story)
- The Templar Legacy (2006) – Before the Inquisition, the Knights Templar enjoyed unimaginable wealth and absolute power over kings and popes. But now two forces vying for the treasure have learned that it is not what they thought it was. A call to action resurrects Cotton Malone’s hair-trigger instincts, bringing him back into the cloak-and-dagger world he thought he had left behind when he is enjoying his quiet new life as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen.
- The Alexandria Link (2007) – An anonymous e-mail shatters Cotton Malone’s peaceful existence: “You have something I want. You’re the only person on earth who knows where to find it. Go get it. You have 72 hours. If I don’t hear from you, you will be childless.” This is confirmed by his horrified ex-wife as their teenager is kidnapped.
- The Venetian Betrayal (2007) – When Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 323 B.C.E., he set his sights on Arabia, but suddenly succumbed to a strange fever. To this day, archaeologists and treasure hunters remain tantalized by the possibility of finding his final resting place. It’s time to heat things up in the quest for this prize. Cotton Malone finds himself drawn into a complex geopolitical nightmare.
- The Charlemagne Pursuit (2008) – As a child, Cotton Malone was told that his father died in a submarine disaster in the North Atlantic. But what he now learns stuns him: His father’s sub was a secret nuclear vessel lost on a highly classified mission beneath the ice shelves of Antarctica. Twin sisters Dorothea Lindauer and Christl Falk are also determined to find out what became of their father, who died on the same submarine.
- The Paris Vendetta (2009) – Cotton Malone isn’t looking for trouble when it comes knocking at his Copenhagen bookshop. Actually, it breaks and enters in the form of an American Secret Service agent with a pair of assassins on his heels. Malone has his doubts about the anxious young man, but narrowly surviving a ferocious firefight convinces him to follow his unexpected new ally.
- “The Balkan Escape“ (2010) (short story and first story in the spin-off series about Cassiopeia Vitt)
- The Emperor’s Tomb (2010) – Cotton Malone has received an anonymous note carrying an unfamiliar Web address. Logging on, he’s shocked to see Cassiopeia Vitt, a woman who’s saved his life more than once, being tortured at the hands of a mysterious man who has a single demand: Bring me the artifact she’s asked you to keep safe. The only problem is, Malone doesn’t have a clue what the man is talking about, since Cassiopeia has left nothing with him.
- “The Devil’s Gold“ (2011) (short story)
- The Jefferson Key (2011) – Four presidents of the United States have been assassinated-in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963-each murder seemingly unrelated. But what if those presidents were all killed for the shocking same reason: a clause contained in the United States Constitution? This is the question faced by Cotton Malone.
- “The Tudor Plot“ (2013) (short story)
- The King’s Deception (2013) – Cotton Malone and his fifteen-year-old son Gary are headed to Europe. As a favor to his former boss at the Justice Department Malone agrees to escort a teenage fugitive back to England. But after he is greeted at gunpoint in London both the fugitive and Gary disappear and Malone learns that he’s stumbled into a high-stakes diplomatic showdown international incident fueled by geopolitical gamesmanship and shocking Tudor secrets.
- The Lincoln Myth (2014) – September 1861: All is not as it seems. With these cryptic words, a shocking secret passed down from president to president comes to rest in the hands of Abraham Lincoln. The present: In Utah, the fabled remains of Mormon pioneers whose nineteenth-century expedition across the desert met with a murderous end have been uncovered. And in a matter of a few short hours, Cotton Malone has gone from quietly selling books at his shop in Denmark to dodging bullets in a high-speed boat chase.
- “The Devil’s Bones” (2014) (short story co-written with James Rollins featuring Gray Pierce from Sigma Force series)
- The Patriot Threat (2015) – When his former boss, Stephanie Nelle, asks Cotton Malone 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 water in Venice and ends in the remote highlands of Croatia.
- The 14th Colony (2016) – Shot down over Siberia in what was to be a simple meet-and-greet mission, Cotton Malone is forced into a fight for survival against Aleksandr Zorin, whose loyalty to the former Soviet Union has festered for decades into an intense hatred of the United States. Before escaping, Malone learns that Zorin is headed for North America to join another long-term sleeper embedded in the West.
- The Lost Order (2017) – The Knights of the Golden Circle was the largest and most dangerous clandestine organization in American history. It amassed billions in stolen gold and silver, all buried in hidden caches across the country. Treasure hunters searched for over a century, but little of that immense wealth was ever found-until now. When the news about the found treasure gets out, two factions of what remains of the Knights rush to seize their fair share. Thrust into this battle is Cotton Malone, who has his own ancestral connection to the Knights.
- “The Devils’ Due” (2017) (short story about one of Cotton Malone’s early missions)
- The Bishop’s Pawn (2018) – History notes that the ugly feud between J. Edgar Hoover and Martin Luther King, Jr., marked by years of illegal surveillance and the accumulation of secret files, ended on April 4, 1968 when King was assassinated by James Earl Ray. But that may not have been the case. Now, fifty years later, Cotton Malone must reckon with what really happened on that fateful day in Memphis.
- The Malta Exchange (2019) – Cotton Malone is at Lake Como, Italy, on the trail of legendary letters between Winston Churchill and Benito Mussolini that disappeared in 1945 and could re-write history. But someone else seems to be after the same letters and, when Malone obtains then loses them, he’s plunged into a hunt that draws the attention of the legendary Knights of Malta.
- The Warsaw Protocol (2020) – One by one the seven precious relics of the Arma Christi, the weapons of Christ, are disappearing from sanctuaries across the world. After Cotton Malone witnesses the theft of one of them, he learns from his old boss, Stephanie Nelle, that a private auction is about to be held where incriminating information on the president of Poland will be offered to the highest bidder―blackmail that both the United States and Russia want, but for vastly different reasons.
- The Kaiser’s Web (2021) – Two candidates are vying to become Chancellor of Germany. One is a patriot having served for the past sixteen years, the other a usurper, stoking the flames of nationalistic hate. Both harbor secrets, but only one knows the truth about the other. They are on a collision course, all turning on the events of one fateful day – April 30, 1945 – and what happened deep beneath Berlin in the Fürherbunker. Did Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun die there? Did Martin Bormann, Hitler’s close confidant, manage to escape? And, even more important, where did billions in Nazi wealth disappear to in the waning days of World War II? The answers to these questions will determine who becomes the next Chancellor of Germany.
- “Extenuating Circumstances” (2011) (short story co-written with M.J. Rose)
- “Shadow Tag” (2016) (short story co-written with Raymond Khoury, featuring FBI Agent Sean Reilly from the Sean Reilly and Tess Chaykin series)
- “Past Prologue” (2017) short story co-written with Diana Gabaldon, featuring Jamie Fraser from the Outlander book series)
- The Last Kingdom (2023) – King Ludwig II of Bavaria was an enigmatic figure who was deposed in 1886, mysteriously drowning three days later. Eccentric to the point of madness, history tells us that in the years before he died Ludwig engaged in a worldwide search for a new kingdom, one separate, apart, and in lieu of Bavaria. A place he could retreat into and rule as he wished. But a question remains: did he succeed? After many months, Cotton Malone’s protégé, Luke Daniels, has managed to infiltrate a renegade group intent on winning Bavarian independence from Germany. Daniels has also managed to gain the trust of the prince of Bavaria, a frustrated second son intent on eliminating his brother, the duke, and restoring the Wittelsbach monarchy, only now with him as king. Everything hinges on a 19th-century deed that proves that Ludwig’s long-rumored search bore fruit–legal title to lands that Germany, China, and the United States all now want, only for vastly different reasons.
- The Atlas Maneuver (2024) – Cotton Malone is in Switzerland doing a favor for a friend. But what was supposed to be a simple operation turns violent and Cotton is thrust into a war between the world’s oldest bank and the CIA, a battle that directly involves the Black Eagle Trust. He quickly discovers that everything hinges on a woman from his past, who suddenly reappears harboring a host of explosive secrets centering around bitcoin. The cryptocurrency is being quietly weaponized, readied for an assault on the world’s financial systems, a calculated move that will have devastating consequences. Cotton has no choice. He has to act. But at what cost?