The Knights Templars were founded in Jerusalem in 1118 to protect the pilgrims visiting Palestine at the end of the First Crusade of 1096. The full, original name was "The Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple which is in Jerusalem", but the for the sake of this review I will just refer to them as The Templars.
By papal decree only The Templars were allowed to wear the cross patee. The red cross is probably the most famous identifying symbol for the order.
The Templars because of their austere living conditions and their shrewd lending policies became very wealthy and powerful. Philip the IV of France, a man with ambitions that exceeded his pocketbook borrowed large sums of money from The Templars. When the interest payments became inconvenient Phillip the IV began putting pressure on Pope Boniface VIII to disband the order. WELCHER!!!
To facilitate this end Phillip went so far as to attempt to kidnap the Pope. The Pope survived long enough to excommunicate the king, but then died from wounds received in the attempt. The new Pope decided it was in his best interest to lift the excommunication order, but it was his successor Clement the V who gave Phillip what he wanted.
On Friday the 13th 1307 The Templars are rounded up. They are charged with satanism and unnatural practices. Inquisition tactics are used to illicit confessions. It always amazes me the creativity the human species can bring to bear in finding new and malicious ways to torture another human being. Wouldn't you think you'd find a tried and true method and stick with it? The sick perversion of the amount of time spent thinking about and testing new ways to elicit pain from a helpless individual is beyond my comprehension.
Jacques De Molay is the head of the order, the grand master, when the purges begin. He receives special attention from the inquisition, but once they acquire his confession they continue to inflict pain on him.
He at one point is nailed to a door and then the door is swung back and forth to put the utmost pressure on the bones grating against the nails in his flesh. In 1314 they burn him at the stake and finally his ordeal is over. Templars did survive the purges and they reformed, but kept themselves hidden and out of the public eye. Legend has it that De Molay hid a great treasure before his incarceration and with it an item only referred to as The Great Device.
Steve Berry weaves his story around the rise to prominence of a Grand Master Templar who wishes to restore the order to their place of respect and honor. The hero of the story is Cotton Malone, a retired CIA operative who decided to move to Copenhagen to open a bookstore. His old boss comes to visit him in Copenhagen and before they can even meet Malone finds himself in a desperate chase across Copenhagen. As Malone moves around Europe interpreting clues and in the process thwarting the aims of the Grand Master Templar, the plot unfolds in spectacular fashion. There is blackmail, murder, betrayal, mayhem, secret doors, inventive escapes, and not a single sexual situation or even a hint of romantic entanglement. Steve Berry kept all his characters too busy to even pause for a moment of sexual gratification.
This is a plot driven novel, characterization is actually very weak, and is the main reason why I bumped this down to three stars. I really wanted to know more about Cotton Malone's life in Copenhagen, but before we are able to see "a day in the life of a Copenhagen bookseller" we are blasted into this complicated, elaborate plot that keeps the pages turning. Malone is like MacGyver, Van Damme, and James Bond all rolled into one SUPER AGENT
. A misstep is only an opportunity for him to concoct a dazzling display of unequivocally awesomeness. He does receive some good advice from his boss. "Say it, do it, preach it, shout it, but never, absolutely never, believe your own bullshit.
I've got a few people I know that I might forward that bit of wisdom to.
I can only hope that with further entries in the series Steve Berry will actually convince me that Cotton Malone has any real interest in the book trade. Further development of Malone and adding more time spent in the book world could place this series at the top of my guilty pleasures list. I thought the plot may have tilted too heavy a nod to Dan Brown, but the primary purpose of a thriller is to be a page turner; a book that takes the reader away from their own mundane existence, and this book fulfills that stipulation admirably.