The Lost Order
The Knights of the Golden Circle, the entity at the center of THE LOST ORDER, sprang into existence initially in the 1830s. The intention was for this group, made up of various Southern Rights Clubs, to reestablish slavery. Though not successful in this endeavor, it became a springboard for the Knights to involve themselves in many other situations, like the battle between the U.S. and Mexico, as well as the expansion of the American West.
In 1854, the Smithsonian Institution put together a team to visit the newly acquired American Southwest. Jefferson Davis was serving as Secretary of War under then-President Franklin Pierce. It is said that Davis was approached by a secret group calling themselves the Knights of the Golden Circle, and what transpired between them is the impetus for THE LOST ORDER.
What Steve Berry does best is to reexamine parts of U.S. and world history and utilize them as plots for his novels. The most mind-boggling fact is that most of what he presents is true. It is a frightening premise indeed to discover that the secret cabals, caches of hidden treasure and political loopholes hiding in plain sight were much more than the fictional creation of an imaginative author.
"In the hands of Steve Berry, this series is infused on every single page with white-knuckle, cliff-hanging thrills that make reading it a pure pleasure."
THE LOST ORDER opens with a meeting in 1865 between Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and an unnamed man. Before that meeting ends on its own, it is rudely interrupted by a fire that damaged much of the building. It becomes apparent to Henry's guest that this fire was a ruse to divert attention from something else --- particularly, an item someone wants really badly. It is at the end of this event that the identity of our unknown man is revealed as one Angus Adams, more specifically, Angus "Cotton" Adams.
It is no coincidence that the lead character in this top-notch series is former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone. You see, Malone was named after his ancestor, Confederate spy Angus Adams. As we switch back to present day, we find Malone on an assignment given to him by the National Museum of American History. He finds himself in the Ozarks in western Arkansas looking for hidden treasure. As it turns out, this is the very same treasure that the original Knights of the Golden Circle had hidden, and this group still has sentinels who will do anything to protect the sanctity of this find.
At the same time, Berry introduces some other regular characters from the series. Namely, we have now-ex-President of the United States Danny Daniels playing a new role while adjusting to life away from the White House. He attends the funeral of a close friend and former political colleague, Senator Alex Sherwood. What makes things interesting is when Daniels spies Sherwood's widow, Diane, locked in a kiss with the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lucius Vance. Diane and Speaker Vance are not two of Daniels' favorite people, and he realizes he must find out what is at the heart of this illicit pairing in the wake of Sherwood's death.
As Daniels uncovers more, he is horrified to discover a plot to overthrow the current White House and take over the highest levels of government. He likens it to the 1962 novel by Fletcher Knebel, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, in which the Chiefs of Staff create a coup d'état to take over the government. Of course, linking everything together are the Knights of the Golden Circle. While their treasure is currently being pursued by more nefarious parties, the foundation and premise that the Knights stood for is the crutch that the present-day overthrow plot will use to rewrite history.
All will come to a head in a race against time to locate and reveal the secret vault that houses both gold and information even more valuable than gold. Malone has no idea that his ancestor, Cotton Adams, was the only person who understood the motivation for the Order given to him to protect this wealth as if his life depended on it. The lives of Malone, Daniels and other series regulars like Cassiopeia Vitt and Malone's former boss, Stephanie Nelle, will converge in a race against the clock and a battle of both force and wits with some extremely dangerous and influential people.
I love the Cotton Malone novels. They are not merely dry historically based dramas filled with copious amounts of arcane facts and figures. In the hands of Steve Berry, this series is infused on every single page with white-knuckle, cliff-hanging thrills that make reading it a pure pleasure. If you happen to learn something new along the way, that is just a nice by-product and personal treasure that makes you wish your childhood history class was even half as exciting as these stories.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 4, 2017