“Just a book review,” Ms. Raby said at the end of term. "It will encourage literacy if the kids see that we read for pleasure."
Just a book review?
“Didn’t your friend Nikki at work suggest you read some Tolstoy?” My wife ventured. I knew where this was going. “Only you can’t review the usual sort of dross you read.”
“Because you only read books where the blurb includes the words: hidden archive, relic, lost artefact, Templars, archaeological dig, international plot, secret brotherhood, quest and hidden wealth.”
How well she knows me.
“Anyway, I thought you were going to read the collected works of James Joyce.”
You don’t tend to find them in Oxfam Books and when I did get a look at the first page of Ulysses, reading the complete works of James Joyce seemed marginally less appealing than reading the complete works of Barbara Cartland.
So, notwithstanding my wife’s cynicism, I bring you The Sword of the Templars by Paul Christopher, published by Penguin.
A dark mystery spanning the past ….
A covert war raging in the present ….
An ancient enemy, hell bent on hiding the truth that would rock the very foundations of the world …
Come on. What’s not to like?
Retired army ranger John “Doc” Holliday is the key protagonist. Recently working as lecturer of military history at West Point (now there’s a job I fancy), Doc is left his uncle’s estate which, as he explores it, turns out to include a hidden Templar sword wrapped in Hitler’s own personal battle standard.
I know, me too.
The action starts in America and moves swiftly to Canada, Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, Israel, and the Azores. An awful lot of people get killed – by my reckoning about 130, although an awful lot of those were a secret brotherhood of Libyan fanatics and as none of them were given names, I don’t think they really count. Amongst the other fatalities are a double crossing Catholic Priest (boo, hiss) shot by a Mossad agent in down-town Jerusalem and a noble ex-monk (ahh!) who reveals the secret to Doc as he chokes his last on his own blood.
Doc and Peggy (did I mention Peggy, Doc’s niece? – she had a combination of good looks and flashing, energetic personality that drew men to her like a magnet) and Raffi Wanounou, the Israeli archaeologist ( a starkly handsome man in his late forties) … do keep up … are chased from pillar to post trying to unravel the mystery of the knotted gold wire in the hilt of the sword, and, amazingly have enough cash-in-hand to undertake expensive, and sometimes dangerous undercover travel and pay for accommodation bills for hotel rooms they invariably end up fleeing from and leaving knee deep in gore.
Somewhere in all this it becomes clear that Axel Kellerman (tall, blond, athletic, sharp jawed and with an aristocratic nose, full mouthed lips and high cheekbones) son of WWII SS Gruppenfȕhrer General Lutz Kellerman (ask Miss Williams, she teaches History) and also a secret Neo-Nazi and certifiable mad-man, is their chief foe.
I’ve forgotten exactly why, but then a lot more people are killed so I was distracted.
Anyway, by the end of the book I’m not much the wiser but remain intrigued by how easy it is to cross a variety of international borders with little or no money and only American English and Hebrew to help you. I’m still a little unclear why it was necessary to be smuggled into Gadhafi’s Libya but there you go.
No hold on … that’s the sequel. To my horror, on finishing the book I discover I have to read on in The Templar Cross where Peggy is kidnapped by the Brotherhood of the Temple of Isis which leads Doc and Raffi into a quest into deepest Africa, taking in France and some other places along the way. A lot of people try to kill Doc but he seems wise to them as an ex-military man because none of the killers wear their West Point graduation rings on the correct hand.
That old trick? Really?
It is at this point that I discover that Doc only has one eye and wears an eye patch over the other – a piece of grit thrown up on a road in Afghanistan. I am left wondering why it took me until halfway through the second book to pick this up. There is a strong chance I've not been concentrating.
There’s something about WWII gold, extracted from the teeth of Tunisian Jews, having been lost in a desert plane crash and an interesting line in Czech assassins who use plastic hat-pins – because they don’t show up in airport metal detectors, obviously: do think for yourselves – to stab unsuspecting library archivists through the ear.
I shall make a point of watching out for that.
Anyway Tidyman has his throat cut on the Orient Express, which is a shame as he was a baddie-turned-goodie, although I don’t think his enigmatic Canadian/Egyptian past was sufficiently well explored, rendering him as something of a two-dimensional character and the gold remained hidden in the Pharaoh Imhotep’s tomb in Libya for Doc to retrieve later.
Did I mention that the mad neo-Nazi, Axel Kellerman, (tall, blond, athletic, sharp jawed and with an aristocratic nose, full mouthed lips and high cheekbones) son of WWII SS Gruppenfȕhrer General Lutz Kellerman, had died running into Doc’s Templar sword? No? I don’t suppose it would have helped much at this stage as it happened at the end of the first book.
Anyway Peggy marries Raffi once he recovered from having been badly beaten up by a bald psychopath Priest called Father Domato who is a member of the Vatican’s secret police.
No, me neither, but that’s O.K. because Doc later shoots him in a fishing shed outside Rome.
Strangely by the end of this book I have completely lost the plot - sometime after Paul Christopher I suspect, but all is not lost because it turns out that this is a trilogy.
How I laughed!
And, as luck would have it, The Templar Throne was to hand.
Peggy (now pregnant) and Raffi are largely left out of this book until, inevitably, they are kidnapped in the penultimate chapter (that girl should never go shopping) by an organisation called Rex Deus made up of American descendants of the brothers and sisters of Jesus who, therefore, share the Royal Bloodline via the Merovingian kings. Their matriarch, Kate Sinclaire (a brittle, hatchet faced woman, prone to chain-smoking but always immaculately and expensively turned out) is the mother of Republican presidential hopeful Richard Pierce Sinclaire who she hopes to manipulate into the presidency by virtue of Rex Deus’s fabulous wealth, which is the Templar wealth reinvested after they were all unfortunately tortured to death or burnt at the stake in 14-something-or-other because of Pope Urban and some French king.
This leaves Doc with no travelling companion until he meets up with American nun – or is she? - Sister Meg (in her late 30s, grey-green eyes, red headed and prone to blushing) at Mont Saint-Michel. The action moves to Prague … not quite sure why … where there is an amusing interlude in the ancient Jewish cemetery as Doc and Meg shake off a tail in the shape of a fat, bald private detective. Did I say amusing? I lied.
They also escape from British Special Forces – or are they? - at Mount St. Michael by avoiding abseiling soldiers and hopping onto the passing boat of a young Irish fisherman – or is he? “Aw and well, it’s just a culchie from Cork City that I am and all.”
A couple of folk get shot on Holy Island and Doc and Meg escape by the skin of their teeth which is good, but a shame for the Vicar who had invited them for a meal of haggis and sausages: it’s just not polite to be a no-show without at least texting.
Somehow they end up in Canada where an awful lot of paramilitary guys get shot-up at the lakeside safe-house.
Forgot to mention that this is to do with a quest for the True Ark (a wooden box containing the Holy Grail, the Crown of Thorns, the Holy Shroud and the Ring of Christ) which Meg believes was smuggled to The New World by a surviving Templar called Saint Clair and the Blessed Juliana, niece to Princess Agnes of Bohemia (died 1282). This is where I really had to suspend my disbelief. After all, Jesus wearing a ring? As if.
Anyway, Meg turns out to be the daughter of Kate Sinclaire and only an ex-nun which I was quite pleased to discover as she tries more than once to seduce Doc. “It doesn’t have to be like this you know.” Very un-nunly!
I don’t suppose you spotted the subtle link between Saint Clair and Sinclaire did you? It took me a while to spot that one.
Anyway, just as Doc is about to be forced to authenticate the True Ark, which they had finally found, but only because Meg had planted it there already – cunning vixen that that she is – on a sandbank off the coast of Nova Scotia, the Israeli secret service arrive and rescue Doc having been tipped off by Vatican security. No, really. I wondered what Homeland Security would have to say about that what with this taking place on American soil but, hey, I’m no expert on international politics and I’m sure Paul Christopher did his research thoroughly.
You can imagine my joy when I discover that Kate Sinclaire has instructed that Operation Ironstone be instituted because, and yes, you’ve guessed it, there is a fourth book, due out July 2012, called The Templar Conspiracy where the Pope is assassinated in order for Rex Deus’s plans to reach fulfilment and save America from liberal socialism.
It’s not out in paperback yet, but it’s my Birthday early in October and I must now how it ends!