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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Templar Legacy

Reviewed: November 28, 2007
By: Steve Berry
Publisher: Ballantine Books
487 pages, $10.99

You can take the boy out of the secret service but you can’t take the secret service out of the boy. That seems to be the way of things in the world of the fictional thriller. Cotton Malone may have left the U.S. intelligence service, moved to Copenhagen and taken up a career in the purchase and sale of rare books, but that doesn’t mean that all his instincts have gone dormant.

Seeing the knife, the purse snatcher and his former agency boss seems to bring it all back. Cotton chases the man in the red jacket to the top of a nearby church tower and is astounded when the pretty thief crosses himself like priest, screams out a word in French and jumps from the tower, slashing his own throat with the knife as he falls.

Neither Cotton nor Stephanie Nelle could have known that these events had their genesis 700 years earlier, in the torture chambers of the French monarch Philip IV, who had been the instigator of the purge that pretty much wiped out the Knights Templar.

Nelle is looking to follow up a project that was the obsession of her estranged husband and he son before the former died and the latter disappeared. Because the matter has touched him personally, because he is curious, and because he feels a certain responsibility for a former boss who seems to be out of her depth trying to work in the field after a career spent flying a desk, Malone inserts himself into Nelle’s quest.

Both of them quickly discover that there is more to the affair of the mysterious rare book than either of them could have imagined. The adventure quickly becomes a sort of cross between The DaVinci Code and the adventures of Indiana Jones.

The secret group called the Order seems to consider itself the rightful heirs of any Templar legacy and, after years of being quietly managed by leaders prepared to safeguard its traditions is now led by an activist fanatic prepared to do whatever he feels is necessary to establish its rightful place in the world. His first step is to usurp the succession of the Order, which the previous Master had clearly intended to go to someone else. After that, he places no restrictions on his ambition.

With the two sides clearly established we find ourselves off on a treasure hunt which involves a trek through history, puzzles and clues that have to be untangled, shoot-outs on winding cliff paths and a chase that takes the players all over France in search of a two great treasures. One of them is material wealth, the other is the secret which was once the source of the Templar’s great temporal and spiritual power.

It makes for an exciting adventure, and while this “great secrets the Church has been hiding for millennia” motif is wearing thinner over time, it still has enough power to propel a plot or two.

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