Book Quote:

“Amanda held his eyes. ‘Perhaps you are correct. But often myth is more powerful than reality. Over the centuries, thousands have suffered and even died because of religious artifacts that may or may not have been found by the Templars in Jerusalem….Whether something of value is buried beneath the Gendrons’ backyard is not really relevant. What is relevant is that someone¬†believes¬†something is buried there….’ She turned to Cam. ‘There is an expression on Wall Street: ‘Buy on the rumor, sell on the news.’ In the case of the Temple of Jerusalem artifacts, people have been buying on the rumor for centuries.’ “

Book Review:

Review by Kirstin Merrihew (APR 18, 2009)

Did Templar Knights come to America a hundred years before Columbus?¬†Was their Scot leader,¬†Prince Henry Sinclair,¬†entrusted with a sacred treasure¬†he determined¬†to¬†keep safe in the New World? Did his second-in-command, Sir James,¬†die during their exploration of the territories now within the northwest corridor of the U.S. and lower Canada? Was that dead knight’s grave much more¬†than merely a memorial to him? What happened to Prince Henry?

These questions and many more become the unexpected business of present day attorney Cam Thorne after he ventures to¬†his local library in Westford, Massachusetts to return some books and gets caught up there in helping an elderly couple fend off an aggressive would-be-buyer of the home and land they don’t wish to sell.¬†The¬†property¬†in dispute contains an historical¬†stone-walled enclosure that¬†a Scot treasure hunter¬†thinks could contain riches¬†buried six hundred years ago. Efforts to foil him¬†swiftly lead¬†Cam¬†into¬†a dangerous¬†game of wits and hide and seek with¬†shadowy opponents who will not hesitate to murder to attain their ends (which vary:¬†one faction apparently wants to gain the secrets and wealth allegedly left by Prince Henry and marked in some way by the Westford Knight; and others,¬†even in the Catholic Church,¬†want to¬†keep them hidden).¬†Soon, people Cam knows are being¬†coldly eliminated, and he and¬†a young woman¬†must flee or meet the same fate. Cam and the British Amanda Spencer, a¬†conservator of¬†artifacts and history¬†for¬†the Westford Knight Research Consortium, forge a growing closeness as they¬†dart throughout New England, gathering data and facing perils together.¬†The pair¬†try to solve the clues¬†they find inscribed in rocks¬†such as America’s Stonehenge¬†and the Machias Bay Petroglyphs. They gather and synthesize information about¬†the Templars, the¬†Freemasons, ancient worship of Venus, Medieval church structure, chess,¬†Mary Magdalene,¬†Bernard¬†De Clairvaux, the golden ratio, the¬†Jewish Touro Cemetery,¬†the tetragrammaton, the¬†Mi’kmaq Indians, the¬†Royal Arch of Enoch, etc.¬†To save themselves from secret societies and lone killers alike, they¬†are convinced¬†they must¬†assimilate¬†all this¬†information and crack the secret of the Knight of Westford.

David S. Brody’s¬†Cabal of the Westford Knight inevitably invites¬†comparison with¬†The Da Vinci Code and the film¬†National Treasure, as Richard Lynch, past President of the New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA) states¬†in a blurb on the back of the book —¬†except that Cam and Amanda’s hair-raising adventures in cars, on foot, and on bikes seem more likely to befall common people in¬†suburbia — up to a point.¬†Many who read¬†The Da Vinci Code were inclined to¬†overlook¬†the “fiction” label.¬†Those who open¬†Cabal could, conceivably, make the same error. Brody has done an¬†admirable job of presenting a tantalizing smorgasbord of¬†real (documented) New England archeological artifacts, historical background from (also documented) myriad sources, and then extrapolating to reach a¬†conclusion perhaps more earthshaking that Dan Brown’s.¬†For most of the novel, the inferences¬†the characters¬†draw from the facts make sense,¬†if one is willing to accept a few unproven premises for the sake of the story. Toward the end, though,¬†more incredible leaps of logic are needed to¬†accept the avalanche of material¬†offered as plausible foundation for the climactic revelation.¬†And that revelation itself, although in keeping with the twenty-first century’s trend¬†away from patriarchal beliefs and institutions, leaves¬†a sense of righting¬†one¬†“wrong” with another “wrong” if you will.

A note or two about¬†character development: One of the villains has no compunctions about killing, but¬†can’t bear to inflict¬†suffering,¬†which makes him unusual and more dimensional than he would be otherwise. He also has a child to ground his humanity. Indeed,¬†Cabal on the whole meticulously maintains a feeling of humaneness, humanity: some unconscionable acts are perpetrated, but there still remains an unshakable feeling that no one is irredeemable.¬†Again on the common man theme, the¬†level of intelligence of¬†the characters is not genius level;¬†both the black and¬†the white hats¬†carry out their strategies and tactics rather clumsily at times. But Cam and Amanda are smart enough, and they are likeable protagonists.

Also, although¬†the book contains¬†quite a few¬†sections in which¬†characters¬†must necessarily¬†speak at length¬†to convey historical background to others, Brody avoids bogging down and having them sound too pedagogical.¬†That’s quite an accomplishment.

Cabal of the Westford Knight is¬†a¬†well-structured, quick-moving, invigorating, and¬†highly entertaining¬†“suburban” historical conspiracy¬†thriller.¬†But the best reason for devouring this¬†novel is, as surely NEARA’s Richard Lynch would agree,¬†to learn about the real archeological (and other) artifacts that¬†leave clues¬†to the¬†1399 presence of Prince Henry, Sir James, and their small band.¬†And don’t¬†forget the fascinating¬†endnotes either.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 30 readers
PUBLISHER: Martin & Lawrence Press (January 2009)
REVIEWER: Kirstin Merrihew
EXTRAS: none
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury


April 18, 2009 ¬∑ Judi Clark ¬∑ No Comments
Tags: , , ,  ¬∑ Posted in: Facing History, NE & New York, Thriller/Spy/Caper

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