My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I suffer from a bit of OCD in my reading habits. When I commit to reading a book, I feel a compulsion to finish it even if I'm not finding the experience particularly enjoyable. In this, I am the direct opposite of my darling hubby who, if he doesn't find something to grab his attention and interest in the first fifty pages, feels no compunction about tossing the book onto his ever-growing mountain of unfinished reads.
He maintains that he can tell in that first fifty pages if he's going to find the book worthwhile. I, on the other hand, maintain that there is logic and rationality behind my reading strategy. There have been a number of times when I find that a book that starts slowly and seems to hold little interest for me in its first quarter or so begins to pick up speed and enjoyment as the plot proceeds and I become better acquainted with the characters. And so I stick with those unpromising reads right through to the bitter end. Sometimes they even end up being a three- or four-star read. Never a five-star though. That slow start does count against them.
Which brings me to Steve Berry's The Templar Legacy.
Steve Berry was pitched to me as "the thinking reader's Dan Brown." Well, I've read some of Dan Brown's stuff and found it somewhat enjoyable. Not great literature certainly, but diverting for what it is. And I do like a good thriller based on history, so Berry seemed a good fit.
The Templar Legacy is the first in Berry's series featuring Cotton Malone, a former operative with a secret unit within the U.S. Department of Justice. When we meet Malone, he has been retired from that life for a year, during which he has moved to Copenhagen and opened an antiquarian bookstore. He's just heard from his former boss at the DOJ that she is coming to Copenhagen.
Through some snooping, he learns that her visit is related to research that had been done by her late estranged husband and son. Her husband was a writer who had written about the Knights Templar and had been deeply involved in following up on clues regarding mysteries about them. After he committed suicide, his son had carried on the research until his own supposed death in an avalanche in the Pyrenees. Now, the widow/mother has been drawn into the same mysteries.
But there are some powerful forces that don't want those mysteries uncovered and that are willing to go to any lengths to prevent it. The plot of this story is about the struggle between those two forces.
This is very much a plot-driven narrative. None of the characters are ever developed to any significant degree. That made it very difficult for me to care about the fate of any of them and very hard for me to get invested in the story.
There is a lot here about the history of the Knights Templar, or, as they were originally known "The Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple which is in Jerusalem." They were founded in Jerusalem in 1118 for the purpose of protecting pilgrims visiting Palestine at the end of the First Crusade. Over time, the order became very rich and powerful, which, in turn, drew the attention and envy of other powerful forces, particularly Phillip IV of France who pressured the pope to disband the Templars. On a Friday the 13th in 1307, the Templars were rounded up and charged with satanism and unnatural practices.
The purges continued until the group was supposedly completely eradicated, but rumors abound that there was some sort of great treasure that was hidden away before that happened. Treasure that has never been found in over 700 years.
I found the historical aspects of the story interesting and I take them more or less at face value; I have no idea how much truth there is there. In a writer's note at the end, Berry lists his sources and makes the argument that much of the story is based on fact.
But I have a pretty low tolerance for coincidence in thrillers and for secret conspiracies that hold the key to some "Great Devise" (as the book calls it) or great secret knowledge that no one else knows but that a hardy band of determined amateurs can somehow ferret out by the last chapter. Somehow I just don't think it works like that so it was hard for me to accept the premise of the plot.
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