Friday, 26 March 2010

Book Review: The Last Templar, by Raymond Khoury (2005)

The Last Templar started life as a screenplay and developed into a novel; it certainly reads like a movie.

And that's a big part of the problem.

Author Raymond Khoury tackles the mystery of the ancient secret of the Templars, a brotherhood of knights who accumulated massive power and wealth during the Crusades. Did the Templars hold a secret that allowed them to blackmail the Church?

A bloody and epic museum robbery in modern day New York leads to a breathless adventure for an FBI agent and an archaeologist as they track down the robbers, the killers, and the mystery of the Templars' treasure.

It's a rip-roaring story, but whereas a 2-hour action movie can use time limitations and the need to entertain a captive audience as an excuse for some logic gaps, a 500 page novel simply cannot walk away from providing some pretty basic common sense.

If you really care to avoid all spoilers; stop reading. There are some tough questions ahead:

So how does a catholic priest end up being a cold-blooded murderous CIA agent? How does a tweedy and depressed professor plan and pull-off a daring and bloody horseback raid on the Metropolitan Museum? How does a mother abandon her 9 year old daughter and thrust herself into repeated deadly situations? And why does a taser gun shock result in one character being knocked out for hours, whereas another character is up and running within seconds? How exactly did that buried navigational gizmo identify the location of the shipwreck? Is having an airport x-ray of an ancient code-breaking machine really enough to actually build a fully functioning machine capable of decoding an ancient manuscript? Why do so many characters, from an assortment of FBI agents to clergymen in Rome, simply disappear in the second half of the book? And why do the bad guys always choose the least convenient, but most dramatic, moment to make their entrance?

And so on.

The Last Templar is not helped by characters that are hybrids of some of the worst action movie cliches. No kidding: the characters range from the senior FBI man who's just about to retire and who really did not need this case (really!); to the obscenity-spewing henchman in gambling debt trouble; to the FBI agent haunted by the suicide of his Dad; to the beautiful archaeologist single mom who is apparently brilliant, but who displays remarkable lack of judgment in abandoning her daughter, repeatedly lying to the man she is falling in love with, and trusting an admitted murderer.

Sure, The Last Templar is fast-paced, exciting and an undeniable page-turner. Just don't engage in any critical thinking, ask any difficult questions, or expect anything in the form of originality.

Published in paperback by Signet.
523 pages.

The Ace Black Blog Book Review No. 36.

The Ace Black Blog Book Review Index is here.

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