The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury was the first book that Chris and I read with the men in our lives for the express purpose of getting together and discussing it. David and Steve joined the discussion enthusiastically, and we were all quite animated in our corner booth at a local Mexican restaurant. Apparently, we were so lively that another customer came up to us and apologized for interrupting, but she couldn’t help overhear what we were talking about. We thought we were going to be fussed at for being too loud, but instead she wanted to know more.
“I heard ‘escaped through a drainpipe’, ‘templar knights’, ‘psycho killer’, and ‘machine guns’, and I wondered if you were all talking about the same book.” We admitted that we were indeed talking about just one book.
She asked if we liked it. We all responded in unison with “NO!”
The Last Templar does have all of the elements detailed above. Set in present day, a high-profile robbery of a piece of Templar machinery turns into a massacre as four horsemen in Templar clothing ride right into the New York museum open fire on the glittering crowd gathered for the exhibit. The hunt is then on for what was stolen and who is responsible.
One witness to this is Tess, a single-mom archaeologist who is “mesmeric” in her beauty, or so says Raymond Khoury through his male lead, Reilly, a veteran FBI agent. One of the most irritating female characters I have encountered in some time (although David argued convincingly that it is hard to say who was more annoying—Tess or Reilly), Tess repeatedly makes the most inane, dangerous, and irresponsible decisions. Reilly, on the other hand, seems so enamored of her that he continually overlooks and/or forgives the offenses. Just to mention a plot spoiler here: she leaves him while he is under fire from unseen bad guys, releases the bad guy they have in custody, and takes Reilly’s car to escape with the bad guy. Reilly’s reaction to this incredibly blatant statement of what-I-want-is-more-important-to-me-than-anything-even-your-life is (once he escapes) is to follow her because he really senses that she needs his help. Puh-leese! David and Steve were unanimous in their views that they would have survived if only to kill her when next they met.
Khoury also writes dialogue for women very poorly; in fact, his treatment of his female characters was lamentable. The characters are drawn and introduced to the readers a certain way, but then their actions do not ring true based on what Khoury has told us about them.
We all agreed that the most compelling parts of the book were the flashbacks to the templar knights and their actions that led to the present day situation. The characters were compelling and the history was fascinating, but Khoury gives us too little of this. And the back-and-forth between history and present day was too erratic — the book would have benefited from a more even treatment of the two.
Steve also felt strongly that Khoury was just one of many authors who have done their best to fly in the face of Christianity and tear down its fundamental beliefs. Chris made the point that Reilly, the book’s character of faith, so quickly abandons his beliefs at the first true test that the reader becomes discouraged for him. Tess professes more agnostic beliefs but her later actions show her to be all over the place in terms of what she believes and why.
Chris has a loathing for any and all reviews that claim that a book is another Da Vinci Code. This book was touted as such by other reviewers, but we all agreed that it certainly wasn't.
Once we shifted the discussion away from The Last Templar, we got into discussing what is and what is not “Chick Lit.” Because the guys have said that they don’t want to read any of it, Chris and I really wanted their perspective on what is chick lit. We read a variety of subjects and feel that much of the books are not chick lit, so we needed some guidelines.
Here is what we learned about chick lit and what guys don’t want to read about:
• Books that are about relationships and that focus on feelings
• Books that are recommended by Oprah Winfrey
• Books that require handkerchiefs and/or Kleenex
• Books with NO action, suspense, or mystery
If I’ve left anything out, I know the guys will set me straight.
Since our discussion, I’ve looked over some of our books from 2007 (Chris and I are compiling our lists of books read this year), and I realize that some are definitely chick lit: The No Angel series and any of the many Mr. Darcy spin-offs of Pride and Prejudice. I fully acknowledge those as chick lit (they are fabulous, by the way).
Others, though, baffle me. Where do books like Life of Pi, The Reader, and For One More Day, for example, fit in and might they have a place in our discussions? I think many books could fit the criteria above, and the guys still wouldn’t want to read them. Steve and I have been married a long time, and we have always had books he likes, books I like, and a slim list of those we both read. I would say that even the slim list only exists because of occasions where I cross over into “Guy Buys” (note: new phrase I’ve coined as counterpart to Chick Lit). Ken Follett, Nelson DeMille, and Stephen J. Cannell are authors Steve and I both enjoy, and I can think of a handful that Steve has enjoyed that I’ve recommended, such as Lamb, but the slim list has stayed pretty slim all of these years. Not a complaint, just an observation.
What, then, to read next? Many suggestions were bandied about, and we finally all agreed to read Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley. Chris pointed out that the newest one of the Easy Rawlins mysteries had just been published. Steve and I had enjoyed the movie, Devil in a Blue Dress, but we didn’t know it was a series. Chris and David haven’t seen the movie or read any of the books. So, Book Discussion Number 2 is on!
Maybe our slim list will get padded a little after all. What books/authors do couples like to read?