Steve Berry: The Patriot Threat
A crumbled piece of paper and an anagram on the back of the one-dollar bill set the stage for the events to come. Why would a pentagram be placed on the back of the one-dollar bill? “A Star of David intended to mean something. As President Roosevelt and Andrew Mellon have a private meeting within the Oval Office, something happens during their conversation that will set a chain of events on the present that will and could change the economic structure and course of our country.
The center of this novel focuses around the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the question of its ratification. This amendment allows our Congress to levy in income tax without apportioning it among the states. It does not have to base it on the U.S. Consensus. This amendment “exempted income taxes from the constitutional requirements regarding direct taxes, after income taxes or rents, dividends and interest were rules to be direct taxes in the court case of Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan and Trust Co. in 1895.” This amendment was adopted in February of 1913 and is at the core of controversy in this novel.
Cotton Malone our main character is sent to observe a “massive financial transaction- 20 million U.S. being stuffed into two large sacks destined for North Korea.” The exchange did not go off as expected and lives were lost and the money and the men went up in smoke. The helicopter carrying the mend that and the money went up in flames and the money gone. The war began or started and Saloman became the financial broker in New York City. He was drawn to the Patriot side and then arrested by the British as a spy in 1776. But, Salomon was later pardoned and continued to help prisoners of the British escape and even German soldiers to become deserters. Once again arrested he was sentenced to death but escaped to Philadelphia where he once again began his career as a broker and dealer in securities becoming a broker to the French consul. He was a paymaster to French Troops in America and here is where things get interesting.
Andrew Mellon was smart, ruthless and brilliant. He understood the way to keep control and stay in power. As Secretary of Treasury under three Presidents he managed to run our economy during good times. Lowering taxes and less regulation seemed to be his way but how he managed to remain in this position for 11 years is quite remarkable. He was considered the first to use the IRS as a “weapon against political enemies. But, one, which is at the center of this novel, is deal with the outgoing Secretary of State in 1913, Philander Knox. With Knox as close friend, Mellon was appointed by Harding as Secretary of Treasury but sometime before his death, Knox passed on a “great secret to Mellon, which becomes part of the quest within this novel for not only Malone to find out what the secret was but others too.
Whatever this secret was it was dangerous to the United States, well hidden and something that Mellon was able to use to his political advantage. Mellon during his meeting with Roosevelt talks about creating National Art Gallery and later his closest friend, David Finley would become the first curator of this gallery. The meeting took place on New Year’s Eve 1936. Little if anything is known about the outcome or what happened but somewhere documents were withheld, secrets lie within them, the redesigning of the dollar gill comes into play and a statement in Mellon’s handwriting ended in: “ I’m a Patriot, David, never forget that.” Just what did Mellon mean as author Steve Berry takes us back many times within this novel to the past to learn more about the ratification of the 16 amendment, if it is valid, the connection to the revolutionary war and Andrew Mellon’s two secrets that have been buried alive somewhere hoping to be found by some but not know to others.
Salomon came to Philadelphia when the Continental Congress was trying to raise money to support the war. At this time Congress according to the extensive research within this novel relates that Congress did not have the power impose direct taxation. They had to count on requests for money directed to the sates and which were frequently refused. The government at this point had not choice but to have to borrow money. They were saved or bailed out by loans from the French and Dutch governments. Brokering bills of exchange for our government and extending interest free personal loans to members of the Congress including James Madison. However, heirs or descendants in tried to obtain some type of compensation from Congress but to no avail. The extent of his claim on the government could not be decided and the documentation disappeared. This is as the heart or root of what Cotton Malone learns as he boards a ship, hides and finds himself in cabin with Paul Larks, the man who stole the documentation, connected with Kim or Korea and was about to sell the United States into economic poverty. When his son tried to petition Congress to recover money he claimed our government owed him, many committees refused to recognize the claims.
Andrew Mellon was Secretary of Treasury at the time and knowing all about the debt realized what paying it back would do our economy and with stealth and his own definition of what he thought was a patriotic act, he hid the evidence.
While all of this was happening another player arrives as Cotton Malone finds himself captive on the ship with Paul Larks who was killed. Facing him is a Treasury agent named Isabella Schaefer who along with Luke Daniels an agent for the Magellan Billet need to join forces to stop what Kim Yong Jin hopes happen. Wanting to take down the United States, China and hopefully restoring himself in the good graces of his people he and his young daughter form an unholy alliance. Flashing back at times to her childhood, her life in an internment camp and her relationship with her mother, finding out he is her father, his lack of feeling towards her mother and his reasons for wanting power, Hana, becomes more than just a pawn in her father’s agenda.
Mellon was smart. He was irritated as to how the government’s budget was managed and with expenses due and increasing, the failure of income or revenues to keep pace with those expense increases and the lack of savings. Mellon reduced the huge federal debt incurred in WWI. He increased federal receipts and decreased federal spending. If taxes were too high then people would try to avoid having to pay them. He also believed that income tax should remain progressive but with rates lower than in WWI. Tax cuts which Congress enacted in the Revenues acts of 1921, 24 and 26. More cuts to follow and relieving the burden of the middle and working classes as well as the poor. So, the bulk would come from those in higher income brackets. “Mellon also championed preferential treatment for “earned” income relative to “unearned” income. As he argued in his 1924 book, Taxation: The People’s Business”
As the book opens we learn that the Roosevelt Administration the subjected Mellon to intense investigation of his personal income tax returns. But, as we hear their conversation we learn that the US Justice Department empanelled a grand jury, which did not issue an indictment. The animosity between the Roosevelt and Mellon is apparent as Mellon states his offer about creating a National Art Gallery and here is where we fast-forward again.
Learning more about Mellon, his plans and understanding the rational behind the 16th amendment the author brings in one more crucial player: Anon Wayne Howell the man that reveals it all in his own version or novel titled The Patriot Threat. Read his words as he writes and explains the rationale behind the 16 amendment, it validity or non-validity and the ratification process. As Kim tried to steal twenty million dollars money that was “ generated by an insurance fraud scheme send to the Dear Leader each year on his birthday.” As Danny Daniels and Stephanie Nelle the head of the Magellan Billet discuss this, learn more about where Kim is hiding as they remind readers that the money went up in flames and so did the helicopter with the money. While Kim was in Venice and the former Treasury Official, Larks was dead. But, the scenes change as they board planes, ships and even go to Croatia and flashing back to a man named Edward Tiptin who found that Larks had the stolen documents proving our debt to Salomon’s family and Kim was now holding the suitcase. But, within this secret and within the crumpled piece of paper everyone wants is a code that will lead him or her to another secret that might change it all. With the Joe Levy the present Secretary of Treasury’s job on the line, deceits and lies coming out you will not believe just where they find Mellon’s final words and secret. Is the 16th Amendment valid? Will we have to pass another one for 36 states to ratify? With the ambassador of China’s meeting with the President and his own country’s economic security at stake, author Steve Berry takes us inside the minds of many leaders, finding our way around the world and then inside the National Gallery as Stephanie Nelle and Joe Levy with the help of a dominant and strong President find a secret on a single page of random numbers that Kim Yong Jin has and they want. Why were the Chinese interested? What would we have to lose? What exactly was in Howell’s book that would reveal the truth behind the amendment and the debts we owed? Where are the documents and who winds up with them?
An envelope whose contents will enlighten readers to just what the Secretary of State on February 13, 1913 wrote; He refers to the solicitor’s office for determination the question whether the novices of ratification by several states of the proposed 16th amendment to the constitution are in proper form and “ it is requested that this office prepare the necessary announcement to be made to the Secretary of State under Section 205 of the revised Statures thereof, passed the resolution which was deposited in the Department of State July 31, 1909, It calls for an amended to our constitution of the United sates which when ratified three fourths of the legislatures of the several sates shall be valid to all “ intents and purposes. As you read pages 366- 369 you learn more and read the exact words that Stephanie and Levy read and the decision made as to whether to reveal another hidden truth. An ending that will make you wonder: Who is the Patriot and who is THE PATRIOT THREAT!
Fran Lewis: Reviewer