It’s not often I see contemporary thriller broken up into three books. It could be a cheap stunt to suck dollars out of readers (like how The Hobbit is three movies). But three separate books work well here. Each book could almost stand alone, but not quite. They rely on each other.
Side note: I thought the findings at the end of the second book were interesting enough to end the story right there, but the author, James Becker, had plans far different than I expected, which is good and bad. While I get where he went in the end, I think the opportunity to explore the possible repercussions of book two was a major miss. It makes the end of The Templar Brotherhood somewhat anti-climactic. But you know what? I think a lot of readers will disagree with me and they will find the final book a lot more interesting.
When we left our heroes at the end of The Templar Archive, they had returned from Switzerland with an ancient chest and records of Templar land holdings in Europe. But there’s still the matter of the actual treasury, the gold and precious objects, that went missing when the Templars were disbanded. Certain that there is a clue in the items they now possess, Robin and David race against the ever-present Dominicans to decipher the codes and find the treasure.
The first part of the novel is a bit odd. The protagonists find themselves back at Robin Jessop’s bookstore, where everything started, and staring at coded writing. But, where the first book made code-breaking interesting, even page-turning at times, The Templar Brotherhood makes it feel like a slog. It’s not completely coherent and interrupts the flow of the story at times. On the other hand, the author wisely keeps the action that crops up in the beginning brief, so as not to repeat everything that happened in the first installment of the trilogy. That helps keep things fresh, which can be tough by the third book.
Along the lines of keeping it fresh, there are several interesting new locations and a lot of well-researched lore. The author obviously enjoys the subject and has a lot to say about it, and that’s what helps drive these books. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to avoid similar stories that have come before. Familiar locations, familiar bad-guy types, and familiar theories pop up all too often. Once again, the main characters have impressive and unexpected abilities to conveniently get them out of trouble and/or solve treasure-hunting problems.
But, I suppose, the mystery of the treasure is what it’s all about. On that part the author doesn’t scrimp. He comes up with a big idea. Maybe it’s not new, but I’m not a Templar scholar, so it was new to me. However, it was a little past suspension of disbelief for me, mostly because it seemed to come out of nowhere. I feel like the events over three books should have really led up to this moment, but it didn’t have the build-up. Not quite.
There’s also a curious final character resolution that virtually falls out of nowhere (it’s hinted at very briefly in the first book, but still…). It would be okay, but even after it happens the book just ends, like it doesn’t matter that much.
This probably sounds like a terribly negative review. Honestly, though, I enjoyed the books. The author’s prose works, he’s adept at writing action and he’s done the requisite research, which he doesn’t use to talk down to the reader, but inform in an entertaining way. The characters are all distinct, including a really fun secondary character who’s supposed to work for the bad guys but has a conscience (more or less). I would have liked to have seen more of that guy.
I think the hold-up is, if you’ve already read the plethora of other authors who have already covered this topic, these books might not do that much for you.
If you’re new to the game, dive in and have fun.
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