Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Templar Concordat - Terrence O'Brien

    2010; 412 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Action-Intrigue.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    The Knights Templar were never wiped own.  They are alive and well, headquartered in Zurich, and running a number of lucrative business fronts and ventures – including several Swiss banks - from there.  But they are still a secret society, and that’s why no one knows they still exist.

    Another of their functions is to supply mercenary “muscle” and agents to carry out black-ops missions such as eliminating persons the Templar views as undesirables.  And they have an on-again, off-again arrangement with the Papacy to supply such services via a contract that’s been around for 600+ years.

    It’s called the Templar Concordat.

What’s To Like...
    The above hypothesis may sound far-fetched (historically, the Church was the prime destroyer of the Templars), but Terrence O’Brien somehow makes it all seem quite plausible.  There’s a nice balance of Action (thrills-&-kills) and Intrigue (talking-&-revealing), with the latter done well enough to where it didn’t feel like an Info Dump and/or boring filler.

    Character-development is a mixed-bag.  The baddies are your stereotypical Arab terrorists, with the usual flavors – ruthless manipulators, religiously-phony operatives, or decent-but-naïve guys being duped or blackmailed.  The good guys are a better blend – the heroes have some flaws, and there’s a certain ruthlessness to the Templars.  Curiously, two of the main white-hats (Marie and Jean) are developed extensively, only to fade into the background in the second half of the book.  Perhaps they will have more prominent parts in a sequel.

    The main protagonist is a Templar agent named Sean Callahan, for whom the Templar adage “pray for luck” is a fervent wish.  My favorite character was the new Pope.  He drinks beer (in moderation), cusses every once in a while, doesn’t stand on protocol, and wears jeans and cowboy boots.  Some stodgy Catholics will probably find this portrayal off-putting, but in a way it presages the 2013 ascension of Pope Francis.  FWIW, The Templar Concrdat was published in 2010.

     Plotwise, everything builds nicely to a climax that is both exciting and satisfying, if somewhat predictable.  Still, the author does throw one nifty little twist into the final resolution to keep you on your toes.  And there are a couple smidgens of subtle humor tossed in as well, such as a news correspondent named Bear Donner.  I’ll let you figure that one out.

    “Humph, I’ve never seen a Pope before.  The man’s a lunatic.  We came all the way from Zurich to make a deal with a madman?”
    “We did, indeed.  The Pope’s the Pope.”  He pointed up to the castle window.  “And that’s why they call him the Mad Pope.  Doesn’t matter if he’s lost his mind.  That’s not a requirement for Popes or kings.  What he can do is bind the Church and every Pope who comes after him if he says this is what God wants.”  He grinned at the Marshall.  “Think I’m going to argue the fine points like sanity?”  (loc. 172)

    “Berrera and the Church saved my life.  I owe them everything.  Let’s not waste our time.  I spent ten years with the Philippine Marine Corps special operations units.  We hunted people in the south.  Brought the war to them in ways they never imagined.  Then government security services recruited me and I did the same things, just without a uniform, and without a good reason.  Then I started working for myself, doing the same things for even less reason.”  (loc. 6020)

Kindle Details...
    The Templar Concordat sells for $2.99 at Amazon.  This appears to be Terrence O’Brien’s only offering for now, but the Amazon blurb indicates he’s working on a sequel.

”...any problem can be solved by the proper application of high explosives.”  (loc. 4872)
    The Templar Concordat kept my interest throughout, and in an age when there’s a plethora of Templar-themed novels and Dan Brown wannabes, the author finds a fresh new angle to explore.  I do have two main quibbles (is that an oxymoron?), and they both concern the underlying theological premises.

    First, there’s the deep, dark secret that we don’t want the Muslim world to know – that the Church and the West are out to exterminate Islam.  Ya think?  We’ve staged 7 major Crusades against them, used the bulk of Palestine to create Israel, and invaded and occupied two Muslim countries – Iraq and Afghanistan – for no valid reasons.  I’m thinking most Muslims are already convinced we’re out to get them.

    Second, Papal Infallibility.  It simply wouldn’t apply here, just as it doesn’t apply to any of the Papal-endorsed Crusades.  Papal Infallibility has a narrow application, and seems to be used mostly when the Vatican wants to keep the Faithful from questioning one of their theological positions.  If the Pope declares the Virgin Birth a miracle, his stance will be viewed as infallible.  If he declares Vladimir Putin to be a twit, that’s just his opinion.  If he declares war on the Protestants, he will be checked for dementia.

    8 Stars.  I found The Templar Concordat to be an entertaining read, and who cares if the theology is a bit shaky?  The whole Templar/Vatican relationship is innovative enough to be developed into a series, and here’s hoping that Sean, Marie, Jean, Pope Dominic, and the archivist Patrick all have recurring roles.

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