"It has served us well, this myth of Christ." (Pope Leo X, 16th Century)
Four masked horsemen, dressed as Knights Templar, storm an exhibition of Vatican treasures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, stealing artefacts and beheading a security guard. Archaeologist Tess Chaykin sees their leader select a piece that turns out to be an ancient decoding device used by the Knights Templar.
Consequently, she becomes involved in an investigation in pursuit of her former colleague, William Vance, whose obsession is fuelled by the most personal of tragedies. Sean Reilly leads the FBI's investigation and Tess takes him through the dark history of the crusading Knights and on a journey which forces them through the sewers of New York, to the barren Turkish coastline and to the highest point of command at the Vatican. Their growing relationship plunges Reilly into a spiritual and professional conflict.
Meanwhile Vance's desperate wish to reveal the reason for the persecution of the Knights threatens to shake all modern religions to the very core.
The war between the Catholic Church and the Gnostic insurgency drags on in this ponderous Da Vinci Code knockoff. The latest skirmish erupts when horsemen dressed as knights raid New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, lopping off heads and firing Uzis as they go. Their trail leads FBI agent Sean Ryan and fetching archeologist Tess Chaykin to the medieval crusading order of the Knights Templars. Anachronistic Gnostic champions of feminism and tolerance against Roman hierarchy and obscurantism, the Templars, they learn, discovered proof that Catholic dogma is a "hoax" and were planning to use it to unite all religions under a rationalist creed that would usher in world peace. Screenwriter and first-time novelist Khoury spices up the doctrinal revisionism with Da Vinci style thriller flourishes, including secret codes, gratuitous but workmanlike action scenes and a priest hit man sent out by the Vatican to kill anyone who knows anything. The narrative pauses periodically for believers-vs.-agnostics debates and tutorials on everything from the Gospel of Thomas to alchemy. Though long-winded and sophomoric, these seminars are a relief from Tess and Sean's tedious romance, which proceeds from awkward flirtations as they listen to Sean's mix CD to hackneyed intimacies about childhood traumas. The novel's religious history is as dubious as its conspiracy plot, but anti-clericalists and Catholics taking a break from the church's real headaches could unwind with it.