Author: James Becker
I was excited about a thriller book from a bestselling author that incorporated the intriguing lost Templar treasure. With praise like: “James Bond meets Alex Cross…check out James Becker.” (Fresh Fiction) I thought this would be a great summer read. Well, not exactly. Find out my take below.
Copyright: July 2015 (Signet) 528 pgs
Series: Standalone Thriller
Sensuality: some graphic violence, occasional swearing
Mystery Sub-genre: Thriller
Main Characters: antiquarian bookseller Robin Jessop, Tech geek David Mallory
Setting: Modern day, Dartmouth Devon - England and Greece
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
Robin Jessop gets a medieval book, but quickly finds out it is a cleaver book safe. Opening the book safe is tricky, one false move and you are severely injured. She manages to open it without injury and finds and ancient scroll titled Ipse Dixit and is clearly in some ancient cypher. She then does two things that create the rest of the story: she contacts a book buyer of medieval cipher texts, and does an internet search on Ipse Dixit.
The man she contacts for help in deciphering the text shows up only hours before hit men who are backed by a ruthless shadowy religious organization who monitors websites, blogs, and internet searches for that phrase. The result is Robin and David are thrown together, running for their lives. They attempt to decode the scroll, which appears to reference a lost treasure of a Templar outpost hidden by one of the last Grand Masters...and prior treasurer, of the Outremer chapter of the Templars before it was defeated in battle.
Robin Jessop maybe an antique book seller, but she grew up racing cars and learning martial arts, which is a little over-the-top and convenient. David Mallory is a computer guru who can spoof their internet connection so they can't be traced online as they research, and just happens to be an expert on all things Templar. Marco Toscanelli, probably a sociopath, heads the sadistic assassins chasing Robin and David. I appreciated the author doesn't through gratuitous sex into the mix, which is rarely apropos when running for your life. I have to comment that character development, even for a thriller, is very sparse in this novel. I can't give you any emotional or psychological profile because there aren't any hints of either. What I have mentioned here is about all you'll get.
The setting runs the gamit from the English countryside, to Beirut, then Sidon in Lebanon, and finally Cyprus Greece which lends and international flavor and interest to the story. The plot had tremendous potential because it is truly suspected that potentially billions of Templar coins, jewels, gold/silver ingots, and other artifacts have been hidden for centuries since the overthrow of the order didn't find near the money and assets they possessed.
But, sadly the pacing dragged with too much history - usually given in lonnnnnnnng dialog sections (info-dump disease). If it wasn't the long historical dialog speeches, it was long paragraphs imparting detailed descriptions of techniques for decoding the scroll, or even minute details on a car chase. Only a few sections actually had heart-racing scenes, and those were too little and spread too far apart to keep any action going. Honestly...I struggled to finish each chapter.
So the pacing dragged except in a few scenes, but I still wanted to find out what happened, how it all turned out, do they find the treasure etc. There is an interesting confrontation in a network of caves with the assasins...good, not great (because there is no good reason given why these cold-blooded sadistic killers wait to eliminate Robin and David). But, and this is the real kicker...there isn't any definitive resolution about the treasure by the end of the book.
If this were supposed to be a series, then it would be a great lead-in to a follow up book for the next leg of the adventure. But, that doesn't appear to be the case, since the teaser included of another book at the end is a completely different storyline with new characters. That was a disappointing ending, really!
I try to allow for people's tastes being different from my own, and I love thrillers - particularly historically based ones, but I have to call this one as I see it. This novel is problematic with the pacing issues (The 500 pages could have easily been trimmed down to 300 pages and the story would have benefited from the weight loss), and lack of character development of any kind, then to have the final slap of leaving major questions unanswered at the end was too much for me.
Rating: Okay – A few good points, but with significant flaws. Suggest you get via Library/swap/borrow if you want.
Here is a great piece that goes into the true lost treasure, and provides a good Templar overview.
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