The Templar Succession by Mario Reading (Corvus, 2016)
When I picked this up at the library, I thought it was probably one of those thrillers mixing all-action stuff with Dan Brown-style resurrection of a shadowy knightly order set on saving the world from destruction. I was pleasantly surprised. The Templar connection is a minimal one – the main protagonist, John Hart, has a Templar ancestor, but appears to have been given the nickname of Templar with a sense of irony. But this is the third book in a series and I can’t vouch for the strength of the Templar connection in the others.
John Hart is a photojournalist, who in 1998 stumbles on a house in the Balkan Conflict which is used by violent Serbians to rape young Muslim women. The group of soldiers is led by The Captain, who keeps one of the young women, Lumnije, for himself. When Hart finds the house, the soldiers are not there and he persuades Lumnije and a few other women to escape with him. The Captain returns and hunts the escapees down. Only Hart and Lumnije finally escape.
In 2015, Hart’s world is turned upside-down when he finds himself caring for Lumnije’s daughter. He is forced to embark on a journey to find the girl’s father – the rapist and war criminal, The Captain. The reader is not spared any of the brutality of the Kosovan conflict, nor the effect is has upon those involved with it. It is a compelling read that draws you onwards through brutality and almost inconceivable evil. It has left me wanting to seek out the earlier two stories in the series, and read them too.
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz (Orion, 2014)
Horowitz is of course an acclaimed author and writer of television series, including Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War. Here he takes up the baton of Arthur Conan Doyle and gives us a view of a Victorian world after the presumed death of Sherlock Holmes and his arch-rival Professor Moriarty. In true Conan Doyle style, Horowitz writes in the persona of a Dr Watson-type protagonist called Frederick Chase. We, the readers, are led to believe that all that is conveyed to us is true – in the same way that Conan Doyle’s stories grew in the public’s eyes to blur the edges of fiction and reality.
Chase, a Pinkerton agent, has come all the way from the USA in pursuit of Clarence Devereux – a fiend in the mould of Moriarty, and who appears to be filling the void in England left by Moriarty’s death. He meets up with Inspector Athelney Jones from Scotland Yard and helps identify the body of Moriarty. Sherlock Holmes’ body, of course, has disappeared. On the body they find a cryptic message from Devereux to Moriarty, and so begins a journey through the darkest corners of London in a hunt to find the evil American. Inspector Jones, once a stumbling policeman humiliated by the brilliance of Sherlock (in a Conan Doyle story), has now modelled himself on Holmes. So we have Jones and Chase instead of Holmes and Watson.
There is, of course, a magnificent and unexpected twist. But I will not tell you what that is. You will have to read Moriarty for yourself.