Review: Secret of The Templars – Paul Christopher

4 of 5 stars

Series: Templars 9

My version: Paperback
Fiction Thriller
Penguin Books

Retired army ranger Lt. Col. John Holliday’s niece is brutally murdered whilst searching for the long-lost Dead Sea Scroll. Holliday has vowed to avenge her death and complete her life’s work, but in doing so he stumbles upon a conspiracy linking the Catholic Church to an illicit art forgery operation involving the Nazis.

Hunted by those determined to hide the truth, Holliday and Interpol agent Peter Lazarus embark on a desperate race. From the vaults of the Vatican to the deserts of Pakistan, Holliday and Lazarus are on a quest to unravel a mystery born in the final days of the Third Reich, and to recover the scroll – the contents of which could destroy the very foundations of the Christian faith.

It does all get a bit frantic really, as secret and not so secret group after secret and not so secret group chase our hero and his new Interpol friend all over Europe and eventually to Afghanistan. Which as you know, for writers of world-spanning thrillers, is like Lee Child’s No-Name, Middle of Nowhere U.S. towns – anything goes. Normal rules need not apply. This, the last in the series, does seem to be going all-out on the flashy-trashy ‘Thriller’ staples. Shadowy groups, assassins, people knowing where you are without ever having appeared in the book before, etc. Nothing says unfeeling, uncaring because I’m richer than you miserable bastards could ever hope to be and therefore don’t deign to conform to your society’s norms, as a member of a secret sect, global power behind everything and all, and have tastes in this and that, that make you plebs say “EWW!” because you don’t have taste, but you presume it must be because you don’t have the kind of money I do that you can’t appreciate such shite, than someone ‘popping’ something in their mouth. Usually a ‘morsel’ of something that is supposed to have taken and age to prepare, by specially flown-in, world’s leading chefs, but you know will taste like shite. ‘Popping’ watch out for it. It’s one of the biggest cliches in the Thriller Book. ‘Popping’ usually occurs, while the person doing the ‘popping’ is having a meeting with someone who is telling them in gruesome detail, about something horrible they have done, or will do to someone who is a minor, but important to the moving-on of the plot. The sort of thing you and I wouldn’t want to hear while wolfing a pizza, maybe.

Secret of the Templars does at least have a bit more about the Templars. Something about the Templars, in comparison with the last few others at least. I hadn’t heard of the Jesus/Judas swap idea before. I have looked it up a little on the interwebs, and it’s there. Personally, I find it intriguing no matter how or where it started. I can see it solving a few conundrums alright. And highlighting or confirming, that Christianity was largely a construct of Paul. There are a few other little bits, not as much as there were in the start of the series, clearly there weren’t enough to go over nine books, but more than there have been recently. Maybe someone should fact-check these books. See what holds water, what he’s made up. Maybe do a book like those there used to be every time Dan Brown released a novel, remember?

Anyway, on the whole, the Templar series has been worth the money. I think it ran its course, but that he might have regretted killing off a couple of characters in the last couple of books and that maybe he packed this one out, to try and avoid accusations of having run out of steam. I’d say read the series, rather than avoid it. I’ve enjoyed them on the whole, some have been better than others, but the quality has been fairly consistently above the middle all the way through.

You can buy Secret of The Templars at

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:

Review: Lost City of The Templars – Paul Christopher

3 of 5 stars

Series: Templars 8

My version: Paperback
Fiction Crime, thriller
Penguin Books


Retired Army Ranger turned historian John Holliday has thwarted the plots of Rex Deus, the twenty-first-century incarnation of the Templars, all over the world. Now, the lost journal of explorer Percy Fawcett leads Holliday deep into the South American jungles on a quest to uncover the greatest mystery of the Middle Ages…

Trailed by an infamous tomb raider and menaced by a tribe of hostile natives, Holliday and his crew uncover a five-hundred-year-old society hidden in the cauldron of the Amazon. Descendants of the Templar Knights, they exist for one reason: to hide and protect the holy artifact taken from the original Temple of Jerusalem by the first Templars: the legendary Ark of the Covenant. But will Holliday’s obsession with the truth finally kill him?

To be honest, several times here I was not really seeing a whole lot of point in this volume. Unless it was to fulfil a contract. Maybe he was contracted to do nine but ran a bit out of steam and decided to go off. Though…this does pull together a few strands of ‘out there.’ Mainly, the idea that the Templars, after their destruction/dissolution, some of them anyway, managed to escape and sail off to America. I’ve seen several books, fiction and non-fiction based around this theory. I haven’t read enough about it to come down either way, so I’m open-minded. It does lead me on nicely to thinking that, in general, this has been a series for the conspiracy theorists. Catholic cults, secret organisations behind everything, the Vatican having stuff in secret archives that would destroy them…all that. Though with the latter, I’m not sure if anyone would be too worried about that any more. As if it could be worse than paedophilia. The rocking the foundations of Christianity also.

Topical though. As as soon as I was finished, if not before, I began seeing articles about The Lost City of Z,’ or something similar. Which seems to have plenty to do with the lost city andPercival Fawcett that this book is all about. Strange.

If nothing else, Paul Christopher has a great talent for making it all flow and read well and plausible. My imagination is not stretched too close to breaking point – most of the time. And always great fun, Indiana Jones, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fun. With enough added nonsense to make Graham Whatsit fans salivate. Though having said that, it’s maybe not far enough out on that there limb for them.

You can buy Lost City of The Templars at

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:

Review: Valley of The Templars – Paul Christopher

3 of 5 stars

Series: Templars 7

My version: Paperback
Fiction Thriller, Templars

Retired Army Ranger turned historian John Holliday and his good friend Eddie have spent their lives desperately seeking the truth behind the ancient Templar Order and its shadowy past.

When Eddie’s brother mysteriously vanishes Holliday begins a frantic search that leads him to Cuba and draws him back into the dark world of the Templars.

Following the trail of clues in Cuba, Holliday discovers that the Templar Order are putting into action a plan that has been growing for five hundred years – to reveal the secret horror of what lies in the Valley of Death.

What links Eddie’s brother to the Templars? Can Holliday find him before it is too late? Or will his hunt for the truth finally kill him?

A complicated and rather unnecessary tale involving missiles, nuclear missiles I think and the blowing up half of Florida. Shadowy figures, people behind the scenes and modern-day Templar people, who aren’t really Templars. But have names that are Templar-ish. And half of it is in bloody Spanish. Well, there are many exchanges between Holliday and Eddie, who is Cuban. That’s a bit wearisome. All the while, we’re getting further and further away from the ‘world of the Templars’ as stated on the front. As a story as a book, it’s ok, I suppose, not much more than that. Every problem is solved pretty much instantaneously, because one of them, or someone they meet under way, happens to be an expert in that particular field. And Holliday’s encyclopaedic knowlege and total recall of just about everything he’s ever seen or learned, comes in handy as well. The whole thing is easy on the eye, it’s not the best in the series, the early books were better, there were more ancient secrets being discovered and ancient facts being told – so he may well just be running out of steam now.

You can buy Valley of the Templars at

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:

Review: Red Templar – Paul Christopher

red-templar-paul-christopher3 of 5 stars

John Holliday 6

My version: Paperback
Fiction The Templars

Army Ranger and historian John Holliday has spent his life crossing the globe uncovering the truth behind the ancient Templar Order. Now, finally returning home, he is intercepted by a mysterious Russian, Genrikhovich, with an astonishing secret…

Genrikhovich claims to know the location of the long-lost Templar sword, Aos – one of the four taken from the Holy Land at the fall of Acre. He believes it is the companion to Holliday’s own Templar sword. Holliday is sent on a deadly and bloody quest into the heart of Russia, where the Templars have wielded power for centuries…

But can Genrikhovich be trusted? Will Holliday’s search for the truth finally kill him? And what is the greatest Templar secret of all?

It’s absolutely possible that this is the best in the series so far. I know for many that won’t be saying a whole lot, but hey! I enjoy them. You probably will as well, if you come to admit it (in public) or not. You just have to avoid looking too long into the plot’s darker corners.

Otherwise, it is great escapism, with a touch of realism, some interesting ‘facts’ here and there (I haven’t fact checked, but they certainly sound plausible enough) and well put together over all. Well worth you wasting some time and money (I’ve bought them all pretty much second-hand, so not too much money) on. Looking forward to reading the next one.

You can buy Red Templar at

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:

The Sword of the Templarsthe-templar-legion

The only list that mutters!

Well, it’s that time again, when everyone puts their list of best books of the year up, so I will too. They all put them up too early though, I wait until the year is actually over, if you’ve noticed.

So that makes my list that much better, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Anyway, in time-honoured tradition, here are all the books I finished last year, in the order I read them:

*You’ll note that they are books I read last year, not books that were necessarily released last year, though of course some were. Where I’ve got round to writing a review, click on the book title to go to the review page.

  1. The Templar Cross (Templar 2) : Paul Christopher
  2. Masters of Rome (Vespasian 5) : Robert Fabbri
  3. Crusade (The Making of England 2) : Stewart Binns
  4. American Assassin (Mitch Rapp 1) : Vince Flynn
  5. Good As Dead (Tom Thorne 10) : Mark Billingham
  6. Blood Tracks (Tess Grey and Po Villere 1) : Matt Hilton
  7. The Pale Criminal (Bernard Gunther 2) : Philip Kerr
  8. The Thunder God : Paul Watkins
  9. Hereward The Immortals (Hereward 5) : James Wilde
  10. Fire & Steel (King’s Bane 1) : C.R. May
  11. Kill Shot (Mitch Rapp 2) : Vince Flynn
  12. The Virgin of The Wind Rose : Glenn Craney
  13. Savage Continent. Europe in the Aftermath of World War II) : Keith Lowe
  14. Enemy of Rome (Gaius Valerius Verrens 5) : Douglas Jackson
  15. Cut and Run (Joe Hunter 4) : Matt Hilton
  16. A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther 3) : Philip Kerr
  17. The Templar Throne (Templar 3) : Paul Christopher
  18. The Double Game : Dan Fesperman
  19. Brother’s Fury (Bleeding Land Trilogy 2) : Giles Kristian
  20. Tripwire (Jack Reacher 3) : Lee Child
  21. Transfer of Power (Mitch Rapp 3) : Vince Flynn
  22. Hannibal. Fields of Blood (Hannibal 2) : Ben Kane
  23. Knight of The Cross : Steven A. McKay
  24. Blood and Ashes (Joe Hunter 5) : Matt Hilton
  25. Anarchy (The Making of England 3) : Stewart Binns
  26. Scourge of Rome (Gaius Valerius Verrens 6) : Douglas Jackson
  27. The Templar Conspiracy (Templar 4) : Paul Christopher
  28. The Maharaja’s General (Jack Lark 2) : Paul Fraser Collard
  29. Imperial Fire : Robert Lyndon
  30. Lionheart (The Making of England 4) : Stewart Binns
  31. The Third Option (Mitch Rapp 4) : Vince Flynn
  32. Rome’s Lost Son (Vespasian 6) : Robert Fabbri
  33. The Visitor (Jack Reacher 4) : Lee Child
  34. The Harrowing : James Aitcheson
  35. Keane’s Company (Keane 1) : Iain Gale
  36. The Far Shore (Agent of Rome 3) : Nick Brown
  37. Separation of Power (Mitch Rapp 5) : Vince Flynn
  38. Gods of War (King’s Bane 2) : C.R. May
  39. Executive Power (Mitch Rapp 6) : Vince Flynn
  40. The Secret Speech (Leo Demidov 2) : Tom Rob Smith
  41. Nemesis (Harry Hole 4) : Jo Nesbø
  42. The Count of Monte Christo : Alexandre Dumas
  43. Dead Men’s Harvest (Joe Hunter 6) : Matt Hilton
  44. Echo Burning (Jack Reacher 5) : Lee Child
  45. The Twelfth Department (Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev 3) : William Ryan
  46. The Wolf and the Raven (The Forest Lord 2) : Steven A. McKay
  47. Hannibal. Clouds of War (Hannibal 3) : Ben Kane
  48. Without Fail (Jack Reacher 6) : Lee Child
  49. The Furies of Rome (Vespasian 7) : Robert Fabbri
  50. The Templar Legion (Templar 5) : Paul Christopher
  51. Blood and Blade (The Bernicia Chronicles 3) : Matthew Harffy
  52. Memorial Day (Mitch Rapp 7) : Vince Flynn
  53. The Death of Robin Hood (The Outlaw Chronicles 8) : Angus Donald
  54. Consent to Kill (Mitch Rapp 8) : Vince Flynn
  55. God of Vengeance (The Rise of Sigurd 1) : Giles Kristian
  56. Terror Gallicus (Brennus. Conqueror of Rome 1) : C.R. May
  57. Red Templar (Templar 6) : Paul Christopher
  58. Dead Letter Drop (Max Flynn 1) : Peter James
  59. The Devil’s Assassin (Jack Lark 3) : Paul Fraser Collard
  60. Act of Treason (Mitch Rapp 9) : Vince Flynn
  61. Persuader (Jack Reacher 7) : Lee Child
  62. Iron & Rust (Throne of The Caesars 1) : Harry Sidebottom
  63. Agent 6 (Leo Demidov 3) : Tom Rob Smith
  64. Protect and Defend (Mitch Rapp 10) : Vince Flynn

Well, looking at that list, you can maybe see that my aim for reading in 2016, was to read as many of the series as I’ve got (the books laid in for, Mitch Rapp for example), or already begun, as possible.

I had intended on not starting any new series in ’16, but didn’t quite manage it. I’m going to continue to read up the series I have started, then get on to the one-offs in 2017. I want to be able to still read series, but read the latest book, as it is released. Not be behind the curve. Also, there are some really quite interesting one-offs out there, and in my collection, that I’d really like to get on to. I’m not against reading series or authors writing them, but I’d like to see an author or publisher take more of a chance on a one-off. It seems a given that any new author is signed if he/she has one book finished and two more sketched out. We need to get away from that, I feel. Get away from the feeling that book one is merely setting the scene for two and three and is stretched out further than it really should have been, the otherwise really just fine Harry Sidebottom’s Iron and Rust springs to mind in that category.

I also have a few Non Fiction books lined up that I’d really like to get on with as well.

My Goodreads aim will again be to read 52 books in the course of the year. I made it up to 64 partially thanks to

  1. Two doses of Influenza, one after the other
  2. Some enforced ‘use it or lose it’ holiday home alone while the wife slaved
  3. Listening to audiobook versions of some of the books I actually have physical versions of (I’ve recently moved from Audible to Storytel. Nothing against Audible as a service, just that Storytel gives me unlimited listening a month, for one flat fee, whereas Audible gives you one credit for your fee, after that you have to buy, or wait for the next month’s credit). I can listen to and from work in the bus, and while walking from the bus to work and back and…well, you get the picture

52 – 64 books read in a year is really about the limit for reading, appreciating, ruminating on and writing an honest appreciation I think. Anyone saying they’re reading more, isn’t really doing any one of those properly. And you can quote me on that.

And speaking of categories…

consent-to-kill-vince-flynnblood-and-blade-matthew-harffyThe Award for the ‘Most Improved’ Series Award
Sharing this award is:
Vince Flynn for The Mitch Rapp Series
The still unexplained ten year gap between three and four (or was it two and three?) apart, this series gets better and better. I noted that he seemed to be aiming to write the perfect thriller, he’s there for the last two I’ve read. The UK publishers clearly want you to think ‘Jack Reacher’ when you see the covers, but these are so much better.
Matthew Harffy for The Bernicia Chronicles
Well, if you read book one and then book three, you’d wonder if they were written by the same person. So either he’s got a ghost-writer, or he’s improved a hundred-fold in the space of three books. Personally, I’m leaning towards the former.

the-wolf-and-the-ravenAward for the ‘Best Series Based on the lyrics for Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like The Wolf” Award
Steven A. McKay for Wolf’s Head, The Wolf and the Raven, Wolf’s Bottom, Rise of the Wolf, I’m On The Ground I’m After You and many more.


the-death-of-robin-hood-angus-donaldThe Award for ‘Sad To See It End’ Series Award
Angus Donald for The Outlaw Chronicles
I’ve maybe had my doubts about this series a couple of times – too much of it set in France – but…Angus got his revenge in the best possible way with an absolutely magnificent final book. He’s gone on to new writing pastures and I’m still misting over thinking about the final scene in this book. Really, do yourselves a serious favour and read the series (in order) if you haven’t done so yet. Robin Hood lives!

the-furies-of-rome-robert-fabbriThe Award for the Most Consistent Series Award
Robert Fabbri for Vespasian
When I’m blown away by book seven in an on-going series and champing at the bit for the next one, you know the series has something good going for it. The Furies of Rome was nothing short of a masterclass in Historical Fiction, one more authors in that field could well do with reading.

Gods of War CR MayThe Award for The Most Surprisingly Good Series Award
C. R. May for King’s Bane. Well, where did this come from?! Somewhere in East Anglia, I think. And the post to Denmark … well, anyway, Cliff (I feel I can call him Cliff now) was kind enough to send me a copy of the first King’s Bane book, and i was seriously blown away with how good it was and how quickly I became completely immersed in the pre-Viking European world he created.

The Bleeding LandBrothers' FuryThe Award for Biggest Disappointment Award
No! Not in that way…it’s because there are (so far) only two in Giles Kristian’s absolutely magnificent English Civil War trilogy. It’s listed as a trilogy and is set up after book two for a number three, but for one reason and/or another, it’s just a duo as yet. But what a hum-dinger book three is/will (hopefully) be. Maybe we should crowd-fund it? Stranger things have happened. I’m in!


But…here is the book I was most impressed with, made the biggest impression on me in 2016

The Prestigious Solid Gold Speesh Reads Best Book of 2016 Award

The HarrowingThe Harrowing
: James Aitcheson

From the moment I started it to the moment I finished it, there was never any doubt in my mind that this was going to be the best book I would read all year. I’m still reviewing the video his words created in my mind every so often. I don’t think it will fade. It was a book set in the aftermath of 1066, that felt bang up to date. It’s the best of 2016 and probably many other years as well.

My review

You can buy The Harrowing here

Honourable mentions

The Death of Robin Hood : Angus Donald
It’ll be a classic for future generations.

The Thunder God : Paul Watkins
Unbelievably good Viking saga. How they should be wrote.

Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith
The final bittersweet book in the Leo Demidov trilogy.

Well, thanks for reading all the way down here, thanks for reading my blog in 2016, I hope you come back in 2017. I also hope the books you read last year, were at least as good as those I read. Have a happy and safe new year – and, good reading!

Review: The Templar Legion by Paul Christopher

the-templar-legion3 of 5 stars

John Holliday 5

My version:
Fiction Adventure, Templars, Vikings

The hunter becomes the hunter.

Army Ranger Lt. Col. John Holliday continues his quest to uncover the mysterious secrets of the ancient Templar Order, an organisation renowned for its incredible wealth and hidden power.

ªHolliday is swept into an adventure as deadly as it is secretive when an archaeologist friend makes a bizarre find in Ethiopia. But when he follows a trail of clues through the chaotic and lawless horn of Africa, Holliday finds himself hunted by a ruthless foe, as he comes closer and closer to a priceless treasure…an ancient artefact that can only be found by those who can solve a riddle from the past.

But his pursuers will stop at nothing to get it first…

It won’t win me many converts I’m thinking, and I’ll no doubt be shunned at The Discerning Blogger’s Christmas Dinner and Dance…but who cares? This was a really rather fine read. Perhaps the best of the series so far. Speaking as a connoisseur of Paul Christopher’s Templar series that is.

as with most of the others, this is enjoyable, readable hokum. This one is more enjoyable, the readability is at the top and the hokum is kept to a believable minimum. He’s not had many facts to spread around in the previous few books, but makes up for it here. Not all Templar-related either. I’m not going to pass judgement on some of the connections, theories made or put forward here, which actually form the basis for the book. But let’s face it, they’re the stuff you really, down inside, hope, wish, were true. Did happen. Like all those Erich Von Däniken books you read in your youth (if you’re as old as me), made real. And made sense. Which this story does. There is, admittedly, not a lot to do with the Templars, or legions of any sort. Neither does there seem to be anything about the ‘priceless treasure’ and the ‘riddle solving’ (see above) which do seem to have been left that out after the back cover blurb was written. Other than that, not a lot to complain about, a good solid very readable and enjoyable thriller. Can’t complain about that.

You can buy The Templar Legion at

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:

The Sword of the Templars

Review: The Templar Conspiracy by Paul Christopher

The Templar Conspiracy Paul Christopher3
 of 5 stars

John ‘Doc’ Holliday #4

My version:
Fiction Present day, The Templars
Penguin Books

The ruthless reign of a secret power must be stopped…

In Rome, the public assassination of the Pope by a sniper on Christmas Day sets off a massive investigation that stretches across the globe. But behind the veil of Rex Deus – the Templar cabal that silently wields power in the twenty-first century – the plot has only just begun.

The cabal has a position of ultimate control in its sights – and its head, Kate Sinclair is never going to yield her one great ambition for her US senator son, Richard Pierce Sinclair.

When ex-Army Ranger John Holliday uncovers the true motive behind the Pontiff’s murder, he must unlock the secrets of a modern Templar conspiracy – and unravel Kate Sinclair’s deadly design.

As there are precious few Templar secrets left to be revealed (in this series, and in general), certainly not enough to base a series of books this long on, once the map was found in a previous book, the following ones are all about the chase, the chasers, the chased and the chasing. That sort of thing. Judged on those grounds, it’s really rather alright. I’ve invested in the whole series – as far as I can see – and think they do a very good job of entertaining me.

There are a couple of problems, though he does seemed to have fixed his Da Vinci Code irritation, there’s just one ‘pop’ as far as I could see. Which, is ironic, given the similarity of the start of Conspiracy, with Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.

Plot-wise, there was a very similar ‘all is not what it seems/being led up the garden path’-type plot twist as the previous book. Though, as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is basically held captive, one way or another, at the start of the first three Jack Reacher books I’ve read, one perhaps shouldn’t complain. And, speaking of Lee Reacher, there is a similar ‘only in the USA!’ with nutcases in the woods, militia stuff as the previous book (or was it the one before) and as in Lee Child. Still, these militia types are always both good for a laugh, and some harmless ridding the world of the extreme stupid people-type fun. Certainly, the plot is a deal more plausible than, for instance, ALL pre-Daniel Craig James Bond films, even if he/the characters clearly think that ‘ultimate control’ means control of the world, means control of the USA. I’d fight back against that kind of delusional myopia, with them getting taken twice, by false cops, stopping their car and coming up on both sides (of it), which is stretching that ‘leader of the free world’ stuff more than a little.

Like I say, I enjoy these books. There’s enough there to interest me and keep me turning the pages until the end. I could do with coming a bit closer to the characters, but ‘Doc’ Holiday is strong enough to be going on with for now.

You can buy The Templar Conspiracy at The Book Depository (you may have to look elsewhere to get the cover I got)

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:

The Sword of the TemplarsThe Templar CrossThe Templar Throne





Me, on Goodreads

Speesh Reads’ Facebook page!

Review: The Templar Throne by Paul Christopher

The Templar Throne
of 5 stars

My version:
Fiction Thriller, Templars, Religion

The hidden hand which rules history…

Army Ranger John Holliday has made it his life’s mission to unlock the secrets of the ruthless, ancient Templar Order, who are as renowned for their hidden wealth and power as for their desperate secrecy.

In The Templar Throne, his quest has him crisscrossing Europe and the US hunting for the True Ark –  a box reputed to hold precious holy relics and the Templar’s most powerful secrets. But Holiday’s hunt is also a deadly chase. On the trail of the relics are the Vatican Secret Service, the CIA and an arcane brotherhood of Templar descendants who know just how much power the Ark holds.

And they’ll kill anyone in their way…

Generally about the chasing than the finding and the secrets and with a real hang-up about The Da Vinci Code, The Templar Throne is number three in Paul Christopher’s Templar series.

The irony is, though, even though he rarely misses the chance to put down the Da Vinci Code throughout the book, if you enjoyed Da Vinci Code (as I did) and want more of that sort of thing, spread over several volumes, this is as good as any series you’re gonna get.

John Holliday is the main pillar of this story. So, it’s handy that he has a photographic, not to mention encyclopaedic, memory of whatever problem it is they’re faced with at any one time. It can get a little irritating at times. You really would be better served by him looking blankly and saying ‘“haven’t the foggiest.”’ But there really isn’t time. His only failing is that it does seem to take him a while to figure out that first someone is following and second, how they’re knowing where he is.

None of them have been so far – and I doubt if the rest of the series will change the formula much – written as great works of literature. I don’t think so anyway. They are great escapism, mixed with interesting enough if you don’t poke too hard, premises and stories, well put together and with a good flow. I’m not going to say that when I’m done with the whole series, I’ll be able to recall individual volumes, though despite its faults The Templar Throne is at least interesting all the way through.

You can buy The Templar Throne at The Book Depository

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:
The Sword of the TemplarsThe Templar Cross
Me, on Goodreads

Review: The Templar Cross by Paul Christopher

The Templar CrossA holy deserved: 3 out of 5 stars

My version:
Fiction, present day.
Bought from Awesome Books

Army Ranger Lt. Col. John ‘Doc’ Holliday is teaching at West Point when he receives desperate news, his niece Peggy has been kidnapped while joining an ancient tomb excavation in Egypt.

Holliday immediately sets out to locate and rescue her, but Peggy’s captors belong to The Brotherhood of the Temple of Isis – murderous  fanatics who worship a dead god.

A trail of clues sends Holliday deep into Africa and into the heart of a conspiracy involving an ancient Egyptian legend and the darkest secrets of the order of the Templar Knights.

It would be very easy to dismiss and ridicule books like this. However, as it is easy and I’m not like your run of the mill bloggers, I’m going to give it due deliberation.

So, we’re back in the company of Lt. Col. John Holliday and his one-man crusade. I think Mr Christopher sees him – and would like us to too –  as something of a blend between an alternative ‘Jack Reacher’ and ‘Indiana Jones.’ Holliday returns to West Point teaching, after the adventures of the first book, as ‘Indiana’ does – not West Point, obviously, but returns teaching each time – where he is going about his business, then gets interrupted, ‘Indiana Jones’-like, by bad news and off we go! I thought ‘Jack Reacher’ because of his resourcefulness and his unbelievable, instant recall of just about whatever needs recalling to solve a problem. Yeah, it stretches believability somewhat, though it doesn’t stick out so much that the eyes go upwards. Too often.

This one reads very quickly and has a decent, all problems knocked out the way, in Clive Cussler-way, flow. However, for a series ostensibly about The Templars, it could perhaps have done with a bit more ‘Templar’ in it. There’s too much arse-ing about in the desert, the ‘fanatics’ aren’t that fanatical and really don’t seem frighten the characters, or us, all that much. There are, as with the first in the series, some tantalising tid-bits of ancient information sprinkled here and there. I’ve no idea if he’s right there, though they certainly sound plausible..

If the series is meant to be light, diverting and easy to digest, then this one does its job. Though there is a surprising lack of tension, it is strangely subdued, for a number two, where, presumably, you’re still trying to hook a readership. I’d guess he imagined he was writing it so that the Templars would come over as a dark, malevolent, brooding presence in the background. However, they’re so much in the background, you almost forget they’re there. ‘Templar Cross,’ is from 2010 and if it had been written today, the travels through the north African deserts and the encounters with the ‘murderous fanatics’ might well have taken on a significantly more frightening and tense dimension. He could have kept the ‘ISIS’ part. Hmm..maybe he is actually ahead of his time?

You can buy The Templar Cross at The Book Depository Though, if you want the cover as above, try Awesome Books or similar.

Related reviews:
The Sword of the Templars

Me, on Goodreads

The only list that matters – Best in Show 2015!

The best book I read all year, was…

First, a list over all the books I started to read (or finished, in the case of the first on the list) in 2015.

Click on the title to go to my review for the book.

Apocalypse : Dean Crawford
The Bourne Ascendancy : Eric van Lustbader
A Traitor’s Fate : Derek Birks
Cockroaches : Jo Nesbø
The Last Viking : Berwick Coates
The Moscow Option : Jeremy Duns
The Iron Castle : Angus Donald
Avenger of Rome : Douglas Jackson
Viking America : James Robert Enterline
The Sea Road : Margaret Elphinstone
The Sword and the Throne : Henry Venmore-Rowland
Sword of Rome: Douglas Jackson
Crowbone : Robert Low
The Serpent Sword : Matthew Harffy
The Black Stone : Nick Brown
The Confessor : Daniel Silva
Potsdam Station : David Downing
Blood Will Follow : Snorri Kristjansson
The Bone Tree : Greg Iles
Killing Floor : Lee Child
Hereward. Wolves of New Rome : James Wilde
False God of Rome. Vespasian III : Robert Fabbri
The Corners of the Globe : Robert Goddard
Lehrter Station : David Downing
An Officer and a Spy : Robert Harris
Masaryk Station : David Downing
Wulfsuna : E.S. Moxon
Catastrophe : Max Hastings
The Northmen’s Fury : Philip Parker
The Cairo Affair : Olen Steinhauer
Hanns and Rudolf : Thomas Harding
The Siege : Nick Brown
The Ends of the Earth : Robert Goddard
The Bloody Meadow : William Ryan
The Long Ships : Frans G. Bengtsson
Slash and Burn : Matt Hilton
The Redbreast : Jo Nesbø
Rome’s Fallen Eagle : Robert Fabbri
The Sword of the Templars : Paul Christopher
The King’s Assassin : Angus Donald
March Violets : Philip Kerr
Hannibal. Enemy of Rome : Ben Kane
The Imperial Banner : Nick Brown
Path of Gods : Snorri Kristjansson
The Scarlet Thief : Paul Fraser Collard
Solomon Creed : Simon Toyne
Child 44 : Tom Rob Smith
Die Trying : Lee Child
The Cross and The Curse : Matthew Harffy
At The Ruin of The World : John Henry Clay
I Am Pilgrim : Terry Haynes

Well, I read a whole load of very good, enjoyable books in 2015. Several from authors I’d read before and some from authors new to me. On reflection, there were several contenders for best book, however, as I decided I really couldn’t single one out like that, here’s, by genre, my picks from last years’ crop.

Click on the cover to buy the book from The Book Depository, click on the title, to read what passes for my review.

The Bone TreeThe Bone Tree by Greg Iles
If you’ve read this, you’ll know what I’m on about. It’s an 800-page monster. but grips like a vice from the get go and does not let go. I read it over a long weekend and, as the cliche goes, could not put it down.
You do need to have read Natchez Burning (the first in this trilogy and also an 800-page monster), to get the full impact from the book, as that sets up a lot of the revelations and general fuck ME!”s you get from what goes on and what is revealed in The Bone Tree. If you’ve read Natchez Burning, but not got onto this yet, you’re in for a treat. If you’ve not read either, do so now! Steven King cannot be wrong! (He’s quoted on the front cover, if you’re wondering).
Book three is out in the spring, I think.

I Am PilgrimI Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
What can I say? I’m finding I am still speechless at how good this one was. Another beast of a long one, but it doesn’t read like it – you won’t notice how long it is once you get well and truly glued too it – you’ll think only that it’s too short when it’s over. Bang up to date in story, treatment and all that, it doesn’t have an agenda and you’re not supposed to either have your prejudices confirmed or destroyed. A refreshingly ‘this is how it is’ sort of thing. A one-off, which is a rarity, though it would stand being a series, but it’s probably best it isn’t. The Guardian’s quote obviously ignores The Bone Tree, but otherwise, for once, they’re not too far off the pace. Incredible enjoyment. And that’s why we read, isn’t it?

Historical Fiction

Probably my most read genre, so there was always going to be a few to choose from here. I had a particularly good year and it came down to three I couldn’t get a cigarette paper in between.

Hannibal Enemy of RomeHannibal Enemy of Rome by Ben Kane
For me, a glorious return to the Ben Kane fold. It’s not that he went away or anything daft like that, just it had been quite a while since I’d read one of his books. He is very active, as they say, on the old social media, so I feel like I’ve also been along for the ride, even without actually reading one of his books for a couple of years. I decided to skip Spartacus and get straight into Hannibal. Wow! I was captivated the whole way through. It’s a good long book, but it’s also lean, mean and effective storytelling. An even-handed presentation of wars between Carthage and Rome, that takes neither sides, nor prisoners. A real pleasure to read and learn and a super set-up for the other two in the trilogy, not to mention the next series.

Rome's Fallen EagleRome’s Fallen Eagle by Robert Fabbri
This was an absolute joy to read. Really excellent descriptive work and a captivating story, with no signs of Robert having to straight-jacket the/his Vespasian character in order to fit things into what is the accepted historical timeline and facts and all that. After a stomach-churning time in Rome with the previous book (False God of Rome), this one is – especially as he’s out in the open of Germania and Britannia (albeit in the forests most of the time) – a real breath of fresh historical air. There’s a freedom, a sense of adventure and a clarity of purpose that is just perfect. And, that it’s number four in a series, when most series are showing signs of the well having run dry, is even more remarkable. Well, I think so anyway.

The Sea RoadThe Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone
Speaking of remarkable…I can’t remember who and when this was recommended but I’m really, really glad I read it. She is a Scottish writer as far as I can see and if, like me, you have any sort of interest in the Vikings voyages to North America, you’ll love this book. Poignant, wistful, yearning, tear-jerking…all kinds of wonderful stuff. Keep your wits about you to get the most from the ending section. Real saga storytelling i the 21st Century that knocks nonsense like the last few Robert Low Viking parodies into place. Also proof, if Robert Low and Giles Kristian need it, that it didn’t always rain from leaden skies, every day, ‘back then.’

Non Fiction

I also occasionally venture out and sample the real world, so here goes:

Hanns and RudolfHanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding
A thoroughly intriguing and surprisingly even-handed look at the lives of two Germans leading to, during the and after, the Second World War. That, by a quirk of fate, one was born Jewish and one to German parents, starts the comparison. Their fates obviously diverge somewhat, after that seemingly even start. Whilst the main thrust, is the author’s trying to figure out what his grandfather (?) did during the war, that he didn’t feel the need to talk about, it’s most rewarding for, through not actually writing the comparing and the contrasting, looking at why, how someone became the Commandant of Auschwitz. People who know more than me are never going to agree, and it’s wrong to look for a one line answer, however…this comes closest of all the books I’ve read – and I’ve read a few.

An Officer and a SpyAn Officer and A Spy by Robert Harris
Not strictly non-fiction, but a dramatising of fact, in fiction in a A Day of The Jackal-type way. If that guy who wrote Schindler’s Ark can get away with it, Rober Harris can, the other way, in my list.
I was familiar with the name Dreyfus and also with Affair and that it was a big deal to French people, both back then, and now. So, I thought, let’s find out. After reading a few barnstormers by the formidable M. Harris, I got into this. Phew! Incredible…such bravery, such fortitude, such stupidity, bare-faced lying and moral courage. If right was done, it was done too late to save face, lives were ruined and very few came out smelling of roses. As a way of understanding the utterly stupid – though probably not thought stupid at the time – mind-set that led to World War I, it’s indispensable.

And finally Esther…


Well, it should be a genre, or maybe not a genre, as they write in genres, but…erm, well, many plucky authors – and you make up your own reason why here – clearly send their manuscripts to the boss of Decca, or the umpteen people the Hairy Potter woman did. And, as a blind blogger, I don’t see Self-Published as a different genre to be avoided like a plague, not touched with a barge-pole, I’m way too good to waste my time on that stuff, don’t you know, now what does this publisher want me to say, oh yes : It’s BRILLIANT! Yes, I see them as books and stories and really, really good.

The two I know are Independent sort of things I read this year, both – fortunately – turned out to be excellent. So, purely in order of ace-ness of cover, here they are:

The Serpent SwordThe Cross and The CurseThe Serpent Sword and The Cross and The Curse by Matthew Harffy
Despite having a face that says ‘read my books or I send the boys round’ Matthew seems a really nice guy. Goes without saying, he knows his Anglo-Saxon onions too. The loner, outsider, proving his worth against the odds, isn’t new. However, it is new when set in Anglo-Saxon invasion times. That’s after the Romans and before the Vikings, to you and me. The real beauty here, is The Cross and the Curse. Fan-Saxon-Tastic! I almost wanted to hug him, but then thought of the publicity shot and thought better of it – it’s so good. Go buy it (it’s out NOW!) as they say) and get in on the ground floor, then it won’t just be me saying ‘of course, I’ve been reading Harffy for years, don’t you know?’

Wulfsuna by E.S. Moxon
Despite having the same surname as one of my neighbours (also English) near here at Speesh Towers in deepest Harlev, Denmark, this is a superb first effort from the lovely Ms.M. She of course got an extra star for either being from Birmingham, or now living there, I forget which. Anyway, this is in the same sort of ball-park as Matthew, in the Anglo Saxon ball-park, that is. However, in a way, the Wulfsuna stories are the other side of the fence (in that ball-park?), I thought. As they start, with the main characters coming over to Britain, rather than Matthew’s already having been here a good while. I thought a lot of Snorri Kristjansson’s books, in that there were some fantasy elements woven into what is obviously a very clever interpretation of the historical records. As in, she knows what we know and uses that as a launch pad for the stories.
I think I’m right in putting this in the Independent pile, though it is published by Silverwood Books. Anyway, who needs a tin-pot genre like Indie, when the story and writing is as good as this? Not me, no sir.

So there you have it. It could well be, if you’ve read any of the above, that you think differently. That’s great. All I hope, is that you enjoyed whichever books you read last year and you enjoy all the books you read this year. That’s, as I say, what it’s all about. Reading books for enjoyment. And I finish and review all the books I start. Oh, thanks for reading this blog, btw.