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    Review of THE LAST TEMPLAR by Raymond Khoury (see his website)

    Dutton, January 2006

    The treasures of the Vatican are on display at the New York Met Museum when four horsemen, dressed as Knights Templar, attack--stealing priceless jewels, statues, and one mysterious object that appears to be an impossible medieval implementation of an enigma (encryption) machine. Archeologist Tess Chaykin, and FBI Agent Sean Reilly work together to discover who could be behind this bizarre attack--and what could have motivated them. Their investigation leads them to a secret that could rock the Church--and the entire world.

    Hundreds of years ago, the Knights Templar rose to become one of the powers of the medieval world--and then abruptly, were extinguished. Myths of the secrets they uncovered in their investigation of the Temple Mount continue to this day--the Holy Grail, the bloodline of Jesus, the Ark of the Covanent, esoteric secrets from some alien race. Author Raymond Khoury postulates a secret so critical that the knights could blackmail the entire church--threatening to destroy the entire edifice of faith.

    Working in parallel with Tess and Reilly, Vatican assassins pursue their own deadly quest to keep the Templar secrets from being discovered and released to the unsuspecting world. Anyone on the battlefield, they state, is fair game--and this includes Tess and Reilly.

    Raymond Khoury jumps onto the religious motif thriller bandwagon popularized by Dan Brown's THE DA VINCI CODE (see our review). The Templars, the discussions of the gnostic gospels, and even occasional mentions of the Jesus bloodline all tie back to DA VINCI. But Khoury's secret is something more vital to the Christian faith even than the idea that Jesus might have fathered a child. A secret partially given away by the quote from Pope Leo X on the back of the book: "It has served us well, this myth of Christ."

    Several flaws will prevent THE LAST TEMPLAR from scaling to DA VINCI CODE popularity. First, the writing is weakened by long lectures on history and religion get in the way of the unfolding action. The romance between Reilly and Chaykin doesn't really work for me--it's hard to imagine that the two have enough in common that they'll stay together for long. Finally, the message of the end, that the ordinary people must be left in ignorance, are too stupid to be trusted with the truth, is one that relatively few book readers are going to be especially tolerant of.

    Occasional lectures notwithstanding, Khoury has some vivid action sequences and in the person of archeologist Vance, a conflicted and interesting character. TEMPLAR isn't the story it could be, but it's certainly readable.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 3/09/06

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