This novel is a clear indication why I still prefer Western literature as compared to Indian. The plot is similar – a quest involving a long last secret. But the quality of language and the maturity of the plot flow is way ahead of what Indians write. Is it because of the cultural background, is it because of the unease in using English, I don’t know. But, the problem is serious – I haven’t seen even a single Indian book of this quality. On the story front, there is nothing much, as is the standard trend of these novels. But, it’s the writing style which matters.
The story, as usual, has two parallel strands, one, of what happened when the treasure is hidden or lost, and the other, in the current day world. The past story is of two Knight Templars escaping with the main treasure of the Templars during the fall of Acre on a ship. But, they hit a storm and the ship gets disintegrated. They somehow reach land and with the main knight seriously ill, they leave him and proceed on. He gives them a letter, hiding the package he has in a grave in that place. The Knight carrying the letter is caught and enslaved; he escapes twenty years later and retrieves the letter to hand it to the Grand Master. However, he reaches only to see the Grand Master executed on the same day. As it looks, the Grand Master was arrested along with a majority of the Templars in a fell swoop and inspite of torture, he doesn’t reveal the wealth they hold to the French king Phillip and the Pope Clement, who is after the main Templar treasure. He, then, decides to hold the letter he has for future generations to decipher and act upon.
In the contemporary world, the story starts with an exhibition of Vatican stuff in New York, which is gate crashed by four dressed as knights. A guard is beheaded and while three loot the exhibits, the leader picks just one piece, something which looks like a typewriter. An archaeologist sees all this and talks with another archaeologist friend who is injured in the melee over her doubts over the typewriter thing, which is given some obscure name. He uses some words, which she later recognizes as Templar. Her friend asks her to check if this has got anything to do with the Knights Templar. Parallel to this, one of the three looters goes to a pawnbroker to sell an artifact he stole from the museum. But, his friend chickens out and betrays him to the police. But, the thief, sensing the same, kills him but is caught escaping. Before he speaks with the FBI, he is forced to reveal the name of his handler under duress and is killed. The handler is killed and using him, the third name. The archaeologist comes across an FBI officer whom she tells about the Templar angle. People are not convinced but they decide to pursue that angle as well. The Vatican Envoy present at the briefing decides the archaeologist, Kim is capable enough and decides to take her seriously.
Tess’s friend tells her to contact either of the two archaeologists who deal with that area. She finds one of the archaeologist, Bill Vance who, ironically is the fourth knight. He decides to bring down the Church because his wife died when the local church priest ordered him not to go for an abortion to save the mother. He kidnaps Tess and takes her to her room where he is busy deciphering a letter, the letter the Knight hid in the past frame. It turns out that the Vatican envoy is the executioner of his three compatriots and misses Vance. In the melee, Tess escapes and reaches out to FBI with the papers he was deciphering. But, Vance reaches his home and asks her to bring the papers. She goes hime, hands over the papers and then decides to send her mother and daughter to her aunt’s place.
Seeing that she left in his police car, the FBI officer, Sean Reilly decides to go to her place where he finds out the story and a manhunt is launched for Vance. The document is finally deciphered with the help of government cryptologists which says the place is a place by name Fonsalis which Tess deciphers as Beer el Sifsaf and decides to use a medieval travelogue to trace the path without informing the FBI. Reilly catches up with her in the departure longue and decides to follow her. Both of them reach the place only to find out the place is inundated by a dam some thirty years ago. Both of them take some diving equipment and retrieve whatever is in the grave. When they reach up, Vance was waiting for them and they open the parcel to see that it contains a letter stating that the package is present at a particular location in the sunken ship and an astrolabe to identify the spot where it sunk. But, the group is attacked in a sniper attack and the three escape.
There is a nice theological debate at this point where Vance badgers the faith of Reilly and is worth reading again and again. In the heat of the moment, Tess decides to leave with Vance to extract the treasure while Reilly is left stranded and had to be rescued by the Vatican envoy, whom Reilly then recognizes as the murderer of the three thieves. The Vatican envoy takes him to Vatican where he is badgered by another good theological debate where the person whom he meets simply says we are stuck and we can’t dare expose the truth as it will led to chaos world wide. He reveals that the treasure is Gospel of Jesus, written by Jesus and authenticated by the Church which proves Jesus is no son of god, but a just another carpenter. He solicits Reilly’s help in burying the truth for good.
Vance and Tess commission a ship to identify the wreck. They find it in the face of a storm and successfully bring the part, a falcon head to float. But, Reilly and the rest catch up with them and announce their presence to Vance and others. In the melee, the ship captain is killed by Vance and Vance orders the falcon head to be retrieved even in that storm. But, the Vatican envoy starts firing at this ship. Reilly kills the Vatican envoy attacking the ship and jumps into the sea to save Tess. Well, both of them land on a single piece of wood and are washed ashore with Tess lightly injured than Reilly, who have become lovers by now.
While recuperating, Tess finds the falcon head and identifies that it’s the Gospel of Jesus, the original one. When she reveals that to Reilly and tells she is going to destroy the document for the betterment of future, Vance suddenly springs into the scene and declares he will publish the document to the world. In the chase that ensues, Vance falls to his death with the pages of the journal scattered all over. Reilley picks a page for Tess but she throws it away, ending the story.
There are, actually some lose strands, like not using an online search for the place name, the possibility of people retrieving the pages and seeing that they are in an unknown script, will send them to some researcher who blows the story on everyone’s face. And, it’s weak on story as like most of the novels of this trend but is strong in the writing style and is still worth reading it a few times, especially the first theological debate.
Rating – Breakdown(sqrt(1*2*3/4))
Maturity of Plot 3
Maturity of Script 4
Discernable Influence 2