I bought this book because the previous book of the author, The Last Templar was a superb book. But, well, sifting the pages through, it looked as if the success of the previous book got into the author’s head. Plot is equally simple, the English, as usual, superb, the philosophical discourse worth reading multiple times. But, the space alloted to muscle play and the focus on violence ticks one off, with too much focus put on the protagonist and the supervillian.
The book starts with the sack of Constantinople in 1203. The Templars are assigned to rescue a hoard from the imperial library. They turn up in a monastery where they are executed by the horrified monks who understood what they carried with them.
In the contemporary frame, the story starts with Tess Chaykin kidnapped from Jordan and Sean Rielly going to Vatican to speak with the authorities to get access to Vatican Archives along with an Iranian exile whose family is threatened by the same kidnapper. Since the book on Templars is not allowed to be seen, Sean and the Professor lie their way through and rob the library. This follows a mad chase in Vatican, resulting in a bomb blast killing people and Sean realizing that the person beside him is not the Professor, but the kidnapper itself. He reveals that the Professor is in the car which exploded and that Tess is in the other. In exchange for the details of the car, he surrenders the book to the kidnapper – Mansoor Zahed. Now, Sean is before the Vatican authorities explaining what happened and gets his permission to carry on the quest – to stop Zahed and stop him in his quest, related to Templars.
It turns out that one Templar, Conrad, hundred years after the sack of Istanbul, and a fugitive, comes across the swords of the executed knights and reaches the monastery with two of his compatriots. They take the horde and plan to go to Cyprus but are ambushed by the people who helped them to reach there. Two of them are killed and the third, escapes with the help of the daughter of his pursuer. Unable to carry the horde with them, they leave them with some markers and proceed on.
Next stop is Istanbul where Zahed beats them to get the details they want, and kills the person who is forced to give him in the headquarters of Eastern Orthodox Church. Sean recognizes Zahed, and goes on in a mad chase after him, finally losing him when Zahed sees to that a bus falls into the river. They know the general area where Zahed is headed to, but not the specifics. Tess second guesses it and while Zahed goes to the monastery where the knights were executed. Tess’s companion at Jordan is with Zahed as a captive and when he tries to escape with the help of his guide, the guide is executed. In the meanwhile, using a drone, the authorities track Zahed and approach him, but he uses his captive as a human bomb and in the ensuing carnage, escapes with Tess, who will now, be her new expert. They catch up with the killed guide’s uncle, a local Byzantine expert and find the grave where Conrad is supposed to be buried. But, they find only two bodies there and knowing that Conrad lost his left hand, they conclude he didn’t die there. The Byzantinist helps them by saying there is a mural of his in a church nearby and leads them there. There, they find two gospels and a confession letter by Hosius, who instead of following Constantine’s orders to destroy the rejected gospels, hid them in plain sight. Sean catches up with them and in the ensuing melee, the Byzantinist is killed and Tess escapes into the underground warren where the Church is located, Sean gets an upper hand over Zahed and Zahed espaces trapping them.
After coming out, Sean and Tess understand that the next stop is Konya where they finally discover the horde. And that the horde was guarded by Conrad’s female companiaon’s descendants – Conrad is killed in a fight with Muslims. Well, Zahed, as always is waiting for them, captures the horde, takes the captive Sean with him and escapes to Iran. Sean, in a desperate fight, kills Zahed and his companion and is rescued from the plane, which drowned, taking down the complete horde with it. The Vatican representative, a high ranking cardinal is relieved that the horde is destroyed but is sad that no one knows what’s in it. When it seems all is lost, the old woman gives the negatives of photographs of every page in the book to Tess who says, it’s not to prove, but to know.
The book is an interesting read, with too much attention given to detail – be it topography or fights, a solid read on philosophy behind Christianity and on the overall plot and writing style. But, it is a pale comparision to the previous one.