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A Novel

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The ancient order of the Knights Templar possessed untold wealth and absolute power over kings and popes . . . until the Inquisition, when they were wiped from the face of the earth, their hidden riches lost. But now two forces vying for the treasure have learned that it is not at all what they thought it was–and its true nature could change the modern world.

Cotton Malone, one-time top operative for the U.S. Justice Department, is enjoying his quiet new life as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen when an unexpected call to action reawakens his hair-trigger instincts–and plunges him back into the cloak-and-dagger world he thought he’d left behind.

It begins with a violent robbery attempt on Cotton’s former supervisor, Stephanie Nelle, who’s far from home on a mission that has nothing to do with national security. Armed with vital clues to a series of centuries-old puzzles scattered across Europe, she means to crack a mystery that has tantalized scholars and fortune-hunters through the ages by finding the legendary cache of wealth and forbidden knowledge thought to have been lost forever when the order of the Knights Templar was exterminated in the fourteenth century. But she’s not alone. Competing for the historic prize–and desperate for the crucial information Stephanie possesses–is Raymond de Roquefort, a shadowy zealot with an army of assassins at his command.

Welcome or not, Cotton seeks to even the odds in the perilous race. But the more he learns about the ancient conspiracy surrounding the Knights Templar, the more he realizes that even more than lives are at stake. At the end of a lethal game of conquest, rife with intrigue, treachery, and craven lust for power, lies a shattering discovery that could rock the civilized world–and, in the wrong hands, bring it to its knees.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

ONE

Copenhagen, Denmark
Thursday, June 22, The Present
2:50 pm

Cotton Malone spotted the knife at the same time he saw Stephanie Nelle. He was sitting at a table outside the Café Nikolaj, comfortable in a white lattice chair. The sunny afternoon was pleasant and Højbro Plads, the popular Danish square that spanned out before him, bristled with people. The café was doing its usual brisk business—the mood feverish—and for the past half hour he’d been waiting for Stephanie.

She was a petite woman, in her sixties, though she never confirmed her age and the Justice Department personnel records that Malone once saw contained only a winking n/a in the space reserved for date of birth. Her dark hair was streaked with waves of silver, and her brown eyes offered both the compassionate look of a liberal and the fiery glint of a prosecutor. Two presidents had tried to make her attorney general, but she’d turned both offers down. One attorney general had lobbied hard to fire her—especially after she was enlisted by the FBI to investigate him—but the White House nixed the idea since, among other things, Stephanie Nelle was scrupulously honest.

In contrast, the man with the knife was short and stout, with narrow features and brush-cut hair. Something haunted loomed on his East European face—a forlornness that worried Malone more than the glistening blade—and he was dressed casually in denim pants and a blood-red jacket.

Malone rose from his seat but kept his eyes trained on Stephanie.

He thought of shouting a warning, but she was too far away and there was too much noise between them. His view of her was mo- mentarily blocked by one of the modernistic sculptures that dotted Højbro Plads—this one of an obscenely obese woman, lying naked on her belly, her obtrusive buttocks rounded like windswept mountains. When Stephanie appeared from the other side of the cast bronze, the man with the knife had moved closer and Malone watched as he severed a strap that draped her left shoulder, jerked a leather bag free, then shoved Stephanie to the flagstones.

A woman screamed and commotion erupted at the sight of a purse snatcher brandishing a knife.

Red Jacket rushed ahead, Stephanie’s bag in hand, and shouldered people out of his way. A few pushed back. The thief angled left, around another of the bronzed sculptures, and finally broke into a run. His route seemed aimed at Købmagergade, a pedestrian-only lane that twisted north, out of Højbro Plads, deeper into the city’s shopping district.

Malone bounded from the table, determined to cut off the assailant before he could turn the corner, but a cluster of bicycles blocked his way. He circled the cycles and sprinted forward, partially orbiting a fountain before tackling his prey.

They slammed into hard stone, Red Jacket taking most of the impact, and Malone immediately noticed that his opponent was muscular. Red Jacket, undaunted by the attack, rolled once, then brought a knee into Malone’s stomach.

The breath left him in a rush and his guts churned.

Red Jacket sprang to his feet and raced up Købmagergade.

Malone stood, but instantly crouched over and sucked a couple of shallow breaths.

Damn. He was out of practice.

He caught hold of himself and resumed pursuit, his quarry now possessing a fifty-foot head start. Malone had not seen the knife during their struggle, but as he plowed up the street between shops he saw that the man still grasped the leather bag. His chest burned, but he was closing the gap.

Red Jacket wrenched a flower cart away from a scraggly old man, one of many carts that lined both Højbro Plads and Købmagergade. Malone hated the vendors, who enjoyed blocking his bookshop, especially on Saturdays. Red Jacket flung the cart down the cobbles in Malone’s direction. He could not let the cart run free—too many people on the street, including children—so he darted right, grasped hold, and twisted it to a stop.

He glanced back and saw Stephanie round the corner onto Købmagergade, along with a policeman. They were half a football field away, and he had no time to wait.

Malone dashed ahead, wondering where the man was heading. Perhaps he’d left a vehicle, or a driver was waiting where Købmagergade emptied into another of Copenhagen’s busy squares, Hauser Plads. He hoped not. That place was a nightmare of congestion, beyond the web of people-only lanes that formed the shoppers’ mecca known as Strøget. His thighs ached from the unexpected workout, the muscles barely recalling his days with the Navy and the Justice Department. After a year of voluntary retirement, his exercise regimen would not impress his former employer.

Ahead loomed the Round Tower, nestled firmly against the Trinity Church like a thermos bound to a lunch pail. The burly cylindrical structure rose nine stories. Denmark’s Christian IV had erected it in 1642, and the symbol of his reign—a gilded 4 embraced by a c— glistened on its somber brick edifice. Five streets intersected where the Round Tower stood, and Red Jacket could choose any one of them for his escape.

Police cars appeared.

One screeched to a stop on the south side of the Round Tower. Another came from farther down Købmagergade, blocking any escape to the north. Red Jacket was now contained in the plaza that encircled the Round Tower. His quarry hesitated, seeming to appraise the situation, then scampered right and disappeared inside the Round Tower.

What was the fool doing? There was no way out besides the ground-floor portal. But maybe Red Jacket didn’t know that.

Malone ran to the entrance. He knew the man in the ticket booth. The Norwegian spent many hours in Malone’s bookshop, English literature his passion.

“Arne, where did that man go?” he asked in Danish, catching his wind.

“Ran right by without paying.”

“Anybody up there?”

“An older couple went up a little while ago.”

No elevator or stairs led to the top. Instead, a spiral causeway wound a path straight to the summit, originally installed so that bulky seventeenth-century astronomical instruments could be wheeled up. The story local tour guides liked to tell was of how Russia’s Peter the Great once rode up on horseback while his empress followed in a carriage.

Malone could hear footfalls echoing from the flooring above. He shook his head at what he knew awaited him. “Tell the police we’re up there.”

He started to run.

Halfway up the spiraling incline he passed a door leading into the Large Hall. The glassed entrance was locked, the lights off. Ornamented double windows lined the tower’s outer walls, but each was iron-barred. He listened again and could still hear running from above.

He continued ahead, his breathing growing thick and hampered. He slowed his pace when he passed a medieval planet plotter affixed high on the wall. He knew the exit onto the roof platform was just a few feet away, around the ramp’s final bend.

He heard no more footsteps.

He crept forward and stepped through the archway. An octago- nal observatory—not from Christian IV’s time, but a more recent incarnation—rose in the center, with a wide terrace encircling.

To his left a decorative iron fence surrounded the observatory, its only entrance chained shut. On his right, intricate wrought-iron latticework lined the tower’s outer edge. Beyond the low railing loomed the city’s red-tiled rooftops and green spires.

He rounded the platform and found an elderly man lying prone. Behind the body, Red Jacket stood with a knife to an older woman’s throat, his arm encasing her chest. She seemed to want to scream, but fear quelled her voice.

“Keep still,” Malone said to her in Danish.

He studied Red Jacket. The haunted look was still there in the dark, almost mournful eyes. Beads of sweat glistened in the bright sun. Everything signaled that Malone should not step any closer. Footfalls from below signaled that the police would arrive in a few moments.

“How about you cool down?” he asked, trying English.

He could see the man understood him, but the knife stayed in place. Red Jacket’s gaze kept darting away, off to the sky then back. He seemed unsure of himself and that concerned Malone even more. Desperate people always did desperate things.

“Put the knife down. The police are coming. There’s no way out.”

Red Jacket looked to the sky again, then refocused on Malone. Indecision stared back at him. What was this? A purse snatcher who flees to the top of a hundred-foot tower with nowhere to go?

Footfalls from below grew louder.

“The police are here.”

Red Jacket backed closer to the iron railing but kept his grip tight on the elderly woman. Malone sensed the steeliness of an ultimatum forcing some choice, so he made clear again, “There’s no way out.”

Red Jacket tightened his grip on the woman’s chest, then he staggered back, now firmly against the waist-high outer railing, nothing beyond him and his hostage but air.

The eyes lost their panic and a sudden calm swept over the man. He shoved the old woman forward and Malone caught her before she lost her balance. Red Jacket made the sign of the cross and, with Stephanie’s bag in hand, pivoted out over the railing, screamed one word—“beauseant”—then slashed the knife across his throat as his body plunged to the street.

The woman howled as the police emerged from the portal.

Malone let her go and rushed to the rail.

Red Jacket lay sprawled on the cobbles one hundred feet below.

He turned and looked back to the sky, past the flagpole atop the observatory, the Danish Dannebrog—a white cross upon a red banner—limp in the still air.

What had the man been looking at? And why did he jump?

He gazed back down and saw Stephanie elbowing her way through the growing crowd. Her leather bag lay a few feet from the dead man and he watched as she yanked it from the cobbles, then dissolved back into the spectators. He followed her with his gaze as she plowed through the people and scuttled away, down one of the streets that led from the Round Tower, deeper into the busy Strøget, never looking back.

He shook his head at her hasty retreat and muttered, “What the hell?”


From the Hardcover edition.
Steve Berry|Author Q&A

About Steve Berry

Steve Berry - The Templar Legacy

Photo © Kelly Campbell

Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Lincoln Myth, The King’s Deception, The Columbus Affair, The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 40 languages with more than 17,000,000 copies in 51 countries.
 
History lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel. It’s this passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, that led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have traveled across the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners, and their popular writers’ workshops. To date, nearly 2,500 students have attended those workshops. In 2012 their work was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve the first spokesman for National Preservation Week. He was also appointed by the Smithsonian Board of Regents to serve on the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board to help promote and support the libraries in their mission to provide information in all forms to scientists, curators, scholars, students, and the public at large. He has received the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award and the 2013 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers. His novel The Columbus Affair earned him the Anne Frank Human Writes Award, and his historic preservation work merited the 2013 Silver Bullet from International Thriller Writers.
 
Steve Berry was born and raised in Georgia, graduating from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was a trial lawyer for 30 years and held elective office for 14 of those years. He is a founding member of International Thriller Writers—a group of more than 2,600 thriller writers from around the world—and served three years as its co-president.
 
For more information, visit www.steveberry.org.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Steve Berry

Question: The subject of The Templar Legacy deals with the Knights Templar. Who exactly were they?

Steve Berry:
The Knights Templar were a monastic military order formed in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 12th century with the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims on route to the Holy Land. Their full name was The Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem, but they came to be known as the Knights Templar. Never before had a group of secular knights banded together and taken monastic vows. They lived by a strict set of rules and went on to become the first standing army since Roman times, fighting alongside the Crusaders for the Holy Land. From humble beginnings (the original nine knights relied on alms from traveling pilgrims) the Templars rose to earn the backing of the Holy See and many European monarchs. Within two centuries of being formed, they became the owners of some 9,000 tax free estates, subject only to papal authority, powerful enough to defy all secular authority.


Q: Weren’t they a bit before their time?

SB:
No question. In fact, putting to use their vast wealth, the Templars essentially invented banking as we know it. The Church, of course, forbade the lending of money for interest. The Templars, being clever, changed the manner in which loans were paid, giving themselves room to charge impressive fees for their lending. In time, the Order routinely financed kings and nations. It also invented the check. Pilgrims headed to the Holy Land, instead of carrying their money for thieves to seize, deposited funds with the local Temple; obtained a receipt; then presented that receipt when they arrived, whereupon their funds were returned by that Temple. Quite an accomplishment for the 12th century. The Templars also operated safe deposit boxes and helped perfect the concept of a security interest in personalty and land.


Q: So what happened to the Knights Templar?

SB:
The Order simply became too powerful. Pope Innocent II exempted the Templars from all secular authority. This privilege bred an arrogance which was hard for the Templars to conceal. A few of the masters even openly challenged the authority of kings. The Order’s private nature, reflected in secret meetings and rituals, also aided in its downfall. The King of France, Philip IV, used all this when he set out to destroy them. The Templars maintained a strong presence in France and Philip felt threatened by their presence. He also desperately needed funds to support his war against England. So, on October 13, 1307 Philip ordered all the Templars arrested on the grounds of heresy, since this was the only charge that would allow him to seize their money and assets. Many were tortured and, as a result, ridiculous confessions were given. These included trampling and spitting on the cross, committing acts of sodomy, and worshiping an idol.


Q: So what happened?

SB:
Seven years of trial and tribulations followed the 1307 purge and, in 1311, Pope Clement V formally disbanded the Order. Several hundred Templars were eventually executed. Finally, on March 19, 1314 the last master, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake. De Molay is said to have cursed Philip and Pope Clement as he burned, asking both men to join him in death within a year. Whether he actually uttered the curse or if it’s simply an apocryphal tale, we may never know. What’s for certain is this: Clement died one month later and Philip seven months after that.

Q: Jacques de Molay figures prominently in The Templar Legacy, was he interesting to write about?

SB:
On the one hand he was a tough, defiant leader. On the other, he was politically inept and embarrassingly arrogant. His underestimation of Philip IV cost the Order dearly, but he’s now generally regarded as a martyr. For seven years after being arrested de Molay suffered torture and inhuman conditions, but he never disclosed the location of the Order’s wealth or knowledge. By all accounts, he died proud.

Q: What about that Templar treasure and wealth? Was any of it ever found?

SB:
Philip looked in vain, but to this day no remnant of either has been discovered. There have been countless theories as to what the treasure and the knowledge entailed and where they might have ended up, everything from the European continent, to Scotland, to even America where the Templars supposedly sailed in the 13th century. But nothing has ever been proven. What better fodder for a novelist?

Q: How did you become interested in The Templars?

SB:
I’ve always been fascinated with them, and writing this book gave me the chance to study the Order in detail. It was important that they be presented as they were, not some Hollywood stereotype, though a few liberties had to be taken to make sure the story remained a thriller. Their 686 Rules, though, are a fascinating read. Obedience was paramount. Contrary to Sir Walter Scott and Ivanhoe, they were forbidden from participating in tournaments; they spoke sparingly without laughter; they did not bathe; they slept with the lights on and dressed; and they were not allowed to gamble or hunt, play games, or grow their hair, though their beards could be unkept. By papal order the knights were allowed to wear a white mantle with a red cross, while the remainder of the Order wore differing colored mantles. Within The Templar Legacy there’s an initiation ceremony which I tried to re-create accurately. That was quite an elaborate event. The hierarchy was simple: The master was in absolute charge, aided by seneschals, who commanded the knights (all of noble heritage) and the sergeants (warriors of non-noble background). Chaplains were the clerics and the rest of the Order were comprised of artisans, farmers, craftsmen, and administrators. Tens of thousands joined. Tens of thousands died fighting. Quite an organization. And the term ‘warrior-monks’– what a marvelous contradiction.


Q: The French town of Rennes-le-Château is crucial to the story. What makes this place so mysterious?

SB:
Rennes is located in the Languedoc, an unspoiled region of southern France. There are many mysteries surrounding this village that link it with everything from the Holy Grail to Noah’s Ark – from the Ark of the Covenant to the treasures of the Temple of Solomon. In the 1950s the owner of a local hotel used the story of the priest Bérenger Saunière as an attraction to draw visitors. He suggested that, after finding parchments in an ancient pillar in the local church, Saunière, sometime around 1891, found a great treasure. This story, published in the local newspaper, caught national attention. A French book by Gérard de Sède published in 1967 brought further attention. People started flocking to the area and serious treasure hunting got under way – so serious that, when people’s houses began to collapse due to the tunneling, the town halted all unauthorized excavation.

Q: Has anything ever been found?

SB:
Not a thing, but the myths and legends live on. Saunière’s renovated church is still there today. It is indeed a place of contradiction and perhaps sublime messages. More garish than beautiful, after a visit it’s easy to see why conspiratorialists find fuel there for the imagination.

Q: What about Bérenger Saunière, what kind of man was he?

SB:
A unique one. Saunière was born in 1852, the eldest of seven children. He entered the seminary in 1874, was ordained as a priest in 1879, then was appointed abbé at Rennes-le-Château in June 1885. He was outspoken, an antirepublican, possessed of a glass eye, and often played the lottery. He also maintained an amorous relationship with Marie Denarnaud, who lived with him as his housekeeper. During his life, he openly spent huge amounts of money building and entertaining. Then he defied the Church and refused to account for his expenditures. Ultimately, he was relieved as a priest. His appeal went all the way to the Vatican but remained unresolved at the time of his death in 1917. Even in death, though, strange things happened. His body was laid out for viewing, covered by a cloth edged with red pom-poms. As the locals walked by to pay their respects, inexplicably they each plucked the pom-poms off one at a time. In another contradiction, he died absolutely penniless, as all of his assets had been transferred to Marie beforehand. It wasn’t until forty years after he died that his tale took on mythical proportions. I had a lot of fun bringing him back to life and re-living his exploits.


Q: Did you actually visit Rennes-le-Château?

SB:
I did, and it’s quite a place. There’s a charged air about the village. And, though the area’s commercialism has spread, a pall of intrigue remains, particularly at dusk when the shadows fall. While researching The Templar Legacy, I visited Rennes, Avignon, the Pyrenees, and other locales throughout the Languedoc. Quite a spectacular part of the world.

Q: Puzzles play a part in the quest for the Templar treasure, are the cryptograms that appear throughout the story real or something from your imagination?

SB:
No, they were a common form of encryption in the 18th and 19th centuries. They would have been nearly impossible to decipher without knowing the mathematical key. It was a simple, but effective, means of keeping a secret. These played a part in the Rennes mystery, as one was found among Saunière’s writings, the message of which has never been learned. I thought they’d be fun to use here.

Q: Some gravestones also play a pivotal role in the quest, were they real or more fiction?

SB:
The two gravestones of Marie d’Hautpoul de Blanchefort are a matter of great controversy. No one has ever seen the actual stones, but there are drawings of what they may have looked like. Problem is, the drawings differ. These gravestones figure prominently in the Rennes legend so they had to be included. Lots of symbolism and subliminal messages here, so many that great liberties could be taken in their use. All is explained in the Writer’s Note at the end of the book.

Q: The Templar Legacy introduces a new protagonist, Cotton Malone, where did he come from?

SB:
He was born in Copenhagen. I was sitting at a café in Højbro Plads, a popular Danish square, when I conceived him. I love that city and that square, so I decided Cotton would own a bookshop right there. I wanted a character with government ties and a background that made him a formidable opponent, but I also wanted him to be a person possessed of freedom. Since I personally love rare books, it was natural that Cotton would too, so he became a Justice Department operative turned bookseller who manages, from time to time, to find himself immersed in trouble. I also gave him an eidetic memory, since, well, who wouldn’t like one of those? At the same time, Cotton is clearly a man in conflict. His marriage has failed, he maintains a difficult relationship with his teenage son, and he’s tired of the risks that seem to follow him even in retirement. Yet that past keeps haunting him, calling him back, forcing him to make tough choices.

Q: Will Cotton Malone be back?
 
SB: Definitely.  This is the first of many adventures for him and his supporting cast of characters.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

Praise for Steve Berry

The Amber Room

“Sexy, illuminating . . . my kind of thriller.”
–Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code

“Magnificently engrossing, with wonderful characters and a plot that speeds, twists, and turns. Pure intrigue, pure fun.”
–Clive Cussler, author of Sacred Stone

The Romanov Prophecy

“Perfect for thriller fans and history buffs alike. Fabulous plot twists.”
–David Morrell, author of The Protector


“Compelling . . . adventure-filled . . . a fast-moving, globe-hopping tale of long-lost treasure and shadowy bad guys.”
–San Francisco Chronicle

The Third Secret

“Controversial, shocking, explosive . . . rich in a wealth of Vatican insider knowledge and two thousand years of Virgin Mary visitations. The Third Secret will change our view of the relationship between religion and wisdom.”
–Katherine Neville, author of The Eight


From the Hardcover edition.
Steve Berry

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Steve Berry - The Templar Legacy

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