Let’s see: There’s a secret Catholic cult that harbors a secret so faith-shaking that Christianity might collapse were it known. They’re willing to kill for it. Hmmm . . .
The good news is that Lustbader (The Veil of a Thousand Tears, 2002, etc.), a prolific author of genre pieces, can actually write. That alone distinguishes him from Dan Brown. The bad news is that this book is too long and a touch too shaggy—and that, no matter what, it’s likely to draw comparison to The Da Vinci Code. There are some gross similarities, but never mind. The hero is a medieval-studies ninja who knows how to love and fight, to say nothing of pray, thanks to a father who just happens to be a higher-up in the Order of Gnostic Observatines—a bunch of Franciscans who haven’t quite absorbed the founder’s message of peace. Dad, though, gets blown up by baddies in the service of the pope, a way-top-secret gang of priestly pummelers called the Knights of St. Clement. There’s been bad blood between the two organizations for generations, as Braverman Shaw, aka Bravo, discovers when it’s his turn to bop around New York and Venice and Paris and Trabzon (“As a student of medieval religions you’re no doubt disappointed to see what’s become of fabled Trebizond, eh?”) and points between to fight for the true faith. Braverman bears his own cross—it’s enough to say that thin ice and a sibling figure in the tale—but is still present enough to acquit himself well with the ripe Jenny Logan, another member of the Order who may or may not be telling all she knows. He does okay when put up against those evil Knights, too, one of them a pretty girl with a rather skimpy suit of armor and a talent for making men talk.
A competent actioner: The Bourne Supremacy with a smattering of Froissart, and enough car chases and explosions to keep things interesting.