The Templar Brotherhood by James Becker is the third book in the Lost Treasure of the Templars series—a breakneck thriller that whisks readers into the shadowy secret chambers of the Knights Templar.
In the third book of the Lost Treasure of the Templars series, Robin Jessup and David Mallory are fresh off an adventure that nearly cost them their lives in a series of Swiss caves. But it wasn’t for naught. They came back with a set of archives that could lead to the lost treasure of the Templars.
They had managed to locate the Archive among several chests of documents hidden away for over half a millennium in a complex cave system they’d found at the end of a valley in Switzerland, caves that extended in a network below the nearby hills. In some ways that had been the easy bit, but they had also managed to convince both the Swiss authorities and a group of armed Italian thugs that the Archive had been destroyed. These men were enforcers employed by a militant arm of the Ordo Praedicatorum, the Dominican order whose members had emerged to become the pope’s personal torturers and assassins in the medieval period.
A treasure map isn’t all that the Archives may contain. In fact, it could reveal deeds to property held by the Templars that was meant to be passed down to their descendants.
To say that the deeds and records were dangerous was a huge understatement; explosive was much closer to the mark. Certain important families or organizations throughout Europe could end up with many of their assets seized from them if these documents were made public, and would no doubt take any measure to ensure that the deeds never saw the light of day. Exactly what they were going to do with the Archive was a question that Robin and Mallory still had to address.
The problem is much of the text seems to be coded. So, Robin and Mallory are holed up in Robin’s antiquarian bookshop in Dartmouth in Devon, ready to decode the text, hoping it will give them a clue—any clue—that will lead them to the treasure.
Meanwhile, the Dominicans are definitely on to them. They know Robin and Mallory may have the Archives, and they’ll do anything to get them back. They’ve hired Gary Marsh to keep an eye on them, but Marsh suspects that his employer plans to do more to Robin and Mallory than just spy on them. So he tips them off to the fact that they’re being watched.
Although he had never met Robin Jessop or David Mallory, the man who seemed to be almost permanently by her side, they seemed to be a fairly decent couple, and Marsh rationalized his assignment as being as much about keeping them safe as about watching what they did. For some reason, he felt somewhat protective toward them, a feeling that would be certainly not be shared by whatever new surveillance operative would be hired if he declined the job.
In fact, it’s because of Marsh that Robin and Mallory are warned of the Dominicans' arrival and are able to escape. What follows is a car chase (where Robin gets to put her particularly edgy driving skills to use) where they even get shot at. Not to be deterred, they can’t go back to the store, but they can keep following the clues, hoping to keep the bad guys at bay. Their search leads them to the Church of Saint Mary at Templecombe where Robin notices something odd about a painting called the Templecombe Head.
“But there’s something else that’s odd about it, and that’s his eyes.”
Mallory looked back at the painted image and then shook his head.
“They look normal enough to me,” he said, “apart from being half-closed. In fact,” he added, “I suppose that’s a bit odd. If he’d been surprised by something, surely you would expect him to have his eyes wide open?”
“That wasn’t what I meant,” Robin said, “but you do have a point. No, what I was looking at was where the man in the painting was looking. Which is straight at the two of us, and that’s unusual.”
Robin goes on to explain how portraits of the time usually had their subjects looking to the side or off to the distance but certainly not directly at the viewer, which leads her to a disturbing conclusion:
“I think the artist of this work painted exactly what he saw, and what he was looking at wasn’t the figure of a man posing for a painting. In fact, it wasn’t a figure at all, which explains why there’s no sign of the subject’s neck or shoulders, or any other part of his body. I think he was painting the head of a man who had just been decapitated. When you die, your eyes don’t close and your mouth could well drop open, because all muscle control is instantly lost. He just painted what he saw in front of him.”
Creepy, huh? It proves to be a very important clue. As Robin and Mallory keep digging, they realize that the discovery of the treasure and the contents of the Archive could lead them to a relic that could change the face of Christianity forever. The stakes, however, could be deadly.
With Robin’s knowledge of ancient texts and Mallory’s resources as a historian, they make the perfect couple to be in pursuit of such explosive secrets. I like that they’re not law enforcement and have to rely on their wits to stay ahead of the Dominicans. Not to mention the fact that Robin isn’t relegated to the sidelines—she’s just as strong and smart (maybe even smarter) as Mallory, and she doesn’t hesitate to let him know. Even better, he seems to love that about her!
Even though this is the third installment of a series, new readers should be able to dive in with no problem. And for folks that love everything Templar, this is a must-read. My only quibble is that the beginning contains a LOT of discussion on code and the various ways of cracking it, which makes the first quarter or so read a bit slowly. But don’t worry, things speed up, and once they get out of the shop, it reads like a hunt and chase film. Fans of Clive Cussler, Steve Berry, and the like will have a lot of fun with this one.
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