Cotton Malone Series, by Steve Berry
1. The Templar Legacy 06/09/2009 * * * *
"The ancient order of the Knights Templar possessed untold wealth and absolute power over kings and popes . . . until the Inquisition, when they were wiped from the face of the earth, their hidden riches lost. But now two forces vying for the treasure have learned that it is not at all what they thought it was-and its true nature could change the modern world.
Cotton Malone, one-time top operative for the U.S. Justice Department, is enjoying his quiet new life as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen when an unexpected call to action reawakens his hair-trigger instincts-and plunges him back into the cloak-and-dagger world he thought he'd left behind.
It begins with a violent robbery attempt on Cotton's former supervisor, Stephanie Nelle, who's far from home on a mission that has nothing to do with national security. Armed with vital clues to a series of centuries-old puzzles scattered across Europe, she means to crack a mystery that has tantalized scholars and fortune-hunters through the ages by finding the legendary cache of wealth and forbidden knowledge thought to have been lost forever when the order of the Knights Templar was exterminated in the fourteenth century. But she's not alone. Competing for the historic prize-and desperate for the crucial information Stephanie possesses-is Raymond de Roquefort, a shadowy zealot with an army of assassins at his command.
Welcome or not, Cotton seeks to even the odds in the perilous race. But the more he learns about the ancient conspiracy surrounding the Knights Templar, the more he realizes that even more than lives are at stake. At the end of a lethal game of conquest, rife with intrigue, treachery, and craven lust for power, lies a shattering discovery that could rock the civilized world-and, in the wrong hands, bring it to its knees."
Cotton Malone is a retired CIA agent who has retired to Copenhagen to open a bookstore, and is, for the most part, living quite happily in his new home. But that all changes when his old boss blows into town for a visit, and suddenly Malone finds himself swept up in a desperate chase across the city and eventually across Europe, as he deciphers secret clues to try to stop the plans of a crazy man who also happens to be the Grand Master of a new secret Templar cult.
The pace moves at breakneck speed, for the most part, although as so often happens, there is a section in the middle that I felt got a little bogged down. Full of murder and mayhem, blackmail, kidnapping, betrayal and seemingly impossible escapes, The Templar Legacy is quite good, considering that the first novel in a series usually leaves a bit to be desired. Characterization is a bit weak, I suppose, as it's a little difficult to get to know a character while he's running for his life, but that's a small quibble and something that does get better as the series continues. The subject matter feels impeccably researched, and the reader may accidentally find themselves learning quite a bit of early Christian and European history without even noticing.
Similar in tone to Dan Brown's Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, but smarter, with a heavy dose of James Bond thrown into the mix, many will find this novel to be controversial in scope and subject matter in terms of religion and Christianity. Nonetheless, I highly recommend The Templar Legacy. It's a fast, fun, fact-filled, fascinating, and fulfilling novel. If you like Dan Brown's novels, and aren't afraid of controversial ideas in your fiction novels, then I think you'll enjoy The Templar Legacy.
Have you read The Templar Legacy? What did you think? Did you find the ideas regarding Christianity too controversial?