Steve Berry’s The Templar Legacy spins the medieval destruction of the Knights Templar into a contemporary conspiracy of daunting proportions. Originally, the Templars were a militaristic monastic order designed to protect travelers to the Holy Land. From their humble beginnings, however, they became one of the richest, most powerful forces in all of the medieval world. In 1307, the king of France opted to dissolve the order and accused its members of not only heresy but perversity as well. The order’s last grand master, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake in 1311. Unfortunately for the French king (although to the delight of countless writers since), the order’s purportedly boundless riches were never recovered.
Borrowing a page from Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, Berry’s novel presupposes that the treasure of the Templars is not simply gold or precious jewels looted from countless sites across the Holy Land, but something more elusive: a secret that stands at the heart of the west’s religious traditions, and one that has secretly divided the church from within for centuries.
Former U.S. agent Cotton Malone has retired early and now spends his days pleasantly engaged as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen. One day, however, he receives an unexpected call from Stephanie Nelle, a former superior who would like a bit of assistance. When Cotton foils what appears to be an attempted mugging involving Stephanie and the thief flings himself from a tower to avoid capture, Malone’s instincts are engaged. He knows something isn’t quite right, a conclusion that will shortly prove amazingly accurate.
Nelle is in Copenhagen on a mission that has nothing to do with U.S. national security. Instead, it is a personal matter involving her husband’s apparent suicide several years before. Her husband was an expert on the Templars and had long been on the track of their mysterious treasure. Now Stephanie is somewhat reluctantly following in his footsteps, in part because of a sense of obligation stemming from the recent loss of her son, and in part because of a mysterious packet she recently received.
Piecing the clues together will prove difficult for Nelle and Malone, even more so because while they receive help from unexpected sources they are also facing an unanticipated enemy. Buried within the contemporary church is a secret dark order, an order that has been biding its time for centuries, seeking that which was lost — a corruption even of that vaguely defined version of the Templars which lurks at the edges of the modern world. Raymond de Roquefort, the current master of the Templar knights, himself seeks the treasure for reasons of his own. And he is willing to use whatever means at his disposal to obtain his goal: the lost secret of the Templars, a secret so powerful, so potent, that it was at the root of a schism in the medieval church and promises to do likewise even today.
Combining whiffs of ancient alchemy and cutting-edge science seemingly known to the ancients but lost in the mists of time, Berry’s narrative manages to careen from one improbable scenario to another, even as the characters ponder ancient puzzles, decipher dead languages, and debate the symbolism and meaning of Biblical scriptures. Overall, a deft sense of characterization keeps the story from stumbling into incomprehensibility, and in the end Berry brings the tale to a clear resolution. Fans of The Da Vinci Code, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt, or even the books of James Rollins will undoubtedly enjoy The Templar Legacy.