St. Martin’s Press, New York
January 1994 (hc)
I finished up last month’s review of Dead Secret by Roy Lewis by noting that all other Arnold Landon archaeology mysteries were either out of print or published only in the U.K. Since then I discovered the wonders of ordering out of print titles from Amazon.com’s affiliated used book dealers. And what a wonder it is! Not only was I able to obtain another Arnold Landon mystery, reviewed below, but it arrived in mint condition with a beautifully intact and slipcovered dust jacket—for less than the original publisher’s price!
This second Arnold Landon mystery, The Cross Bearer, was, if anything, more entertaining than Dead Secret. The story opens with a vignette from 1310 in which the minions of Phillippe the Fair and the Pope are scouring Scotland as they hunt down the last vestiges of the Knights Templar and their fabled treasure.
The narrative then moves to the present day as two seemingly unrelated story lines gradually converge. Arnold Landon, who is an archaeologist for the Northumberland Department of Museums and Antiquities, finds himself on the periphery of a political battle that threatens to involve a number of high-ranking county officials in charges of corrupt practices. At the same time he finds himself drawn into the center of a struggle between forces dedicated to preserving the sacred history of the Knights Templar, and incidentally, the aforementioned fabled treasure. When a politician central to both the corruption probe and the Templar treasure quest is found dead, Arnold Landon, his friend Jane Wilson, and an obsessed police inspector, find themselves on the trail of a killer whose motives may lie almost seven hundred years in the past or in today’s newspaper headlines. When the bookish and unassuming archaeologist finally faces the killer in the ruins of a medieval chapel in the Borderlands, Arnold realizes he must rely on both muscle and guile to defeat this enemy who is determined to have Arnold resting eternally beside the “soldiers of Christ” who guard the Templar treasure for all time.