â€śBut soon a wonder came to light,
That showed the rogues they lied:
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died.â€ť
-- Oliver Goldsmith, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog
If I use a phrase like "fraternal lodge" or "freemasonry," many readers will react badly. They will think immediately of weird rites; exclusive, male orientated social networking — and absolute secrecy. It is this very concealment which gives quite ordinary organisations and their members a raffish glamour and leads to rumours of criminality.
Sometimes the accusations ring true, so the world is still fascinated by the death of the Italian banker, Roberto Calvi, found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, London in 1982. Calvi, known as â€śGodâ€™s bankerâ€ť due to his Vatican links, had also been a member of a clandestine Masonic lodge Propaganda Due (P2). He was almost certainly murdered by the Mafia, but those charged were acquitted after a long court case in June 2007 due to insufficient evidence.
Now a quirky and occasionally funny look at fraternal lodges and their potentially nefarious activities comes in The Lodge â€“ A Tale of Corruption, the latest novel from thriller writer, David H. Brandin. California-based Brandin, who hails from Chicago, has belonged to U.S. fraternal orders of the type he illustrates but insists:
â€śIâ€™ve never witnessed the greed, avarice, and corruption which serve as the backbone of this novel. Most of the volunteers Iâ€™ve worked with were straightforward and honest. The events in this book did not happen. Still, volunteers are human and make mistakes. Could these events happen in an order? Perhaps they could â€¦â€ť
That aside, Brandin uses an extensive knowledge of San Francisco and Chicago along with his love of deep sea diving to give us the sort of zip-along, page-turning murder mystery which helps to make a long flight less arduous. He tells me — honour bright — that he had to research the details about the US Mafia and its association with a wide-boy builder — and I believe him where thousands may demur!