Paris, 1314; the Grand Master of the Knights of the Temple is burned at the stake. He faces Notre Dame Cathedral, his hands bound as if in prayer. But it’s not a prayer that moves his lips but a curse against all those who have destroyed his Order, damning its knights to death or flight. One such knight, Arnaud de Faulke, bears witness and leaves Paris to fulfil his last duty to his Master. Faulke’s task and the journey it takes him on takes many years and along the way he is careful to leave clues so that when the time should come that the Order is reborn future knights will be able to follow in his footsteps and continue their age-old mission for vengeance.
In the present day, Jack, Angela and Sean – soldier, scholar and obsessive, each with a driving interest in determining the truth about this most infamous of medieval Orders – are given the opportunity to follow the last Templars, to search out their clues, to recover the treasure in whatever form it should take. Our three heroes, though, are unaware that the clock is ticking, that knights of the New Order are one step ahead. They have a deadline to catch.
I am a huge fan of mystery thrillers but good ones are a bit of a rare beast. I have to be able to control my incredulity, to believe the fantastical, to accept this alternate perilous world in which I’m placed where anything can happen and does, to not want to put the story down for a minute longer than I have to. I’m delighted to report that Last Judgement made me do all of this, stealing my weekend in that most pleasant of ways. Between the atmospheric opening page and the excitement and tension of the last, Last Judgement presents a thrilling race across old and new worlds, covering thousands of miles and several cultures. Well-written throughout, the thriller is also intelligently done, packed with the kind of historical details that make me want to research places and people.
I enjoyed the company of the three main characters. Not too much is given away about them and, I’m pleased to say, none seems especially indestructible but there are intriguing hints that there is much more to know about them. The same is true of the medieval characters who drift in and out of the book. But the main emphasis is on the mystery and the journey. It never lets up and that’s saying something when the thriller is almost 500 pages long. This is a great length for a good book.
Above all else, Last Judgement is a thoroughly entertaining thrillfest. Its baddies are suitably bad, their crimes pleasingly diabolical and ambitious, with action, tension and puzzle-solving leading and teasing the way from the very first page. I did guess what the great mystery was about but that actually heightened the tension so I suspect we’re expected to work out the clues. I usually avoid thrillers about the Templars but this goes off in a completely different direction and there is no comparison between this and certain other famous Templar thrillers I might mention.
Last Judgement is the first novel by John Carter but, as the opening proclaims, Carter is the pseudonym of a successful thriller writer. Considering how accomplished, exciting and downright fun this novel is, I’m not surprised. If you want a thriller for your holidays, look no further!