Even with really good stories, the re-read value can be rather low. You enjoyed the ride, but by the end, the mystery’s been solved–and by mystery I mean whatever you didn’t know at the beginning–and if it was pretty much the bulk of the story, a second read could seem almost tedious. However, when the mystery–though still good–plays second fiddle to the characters and their interactions with each other, another read has the potential to bring you the same, if not a greater level of enjoyment. And that’s where I am with the M. Chandler’s Shadow of the Templar series so far.
Simon Drake and his crack FBI team are out to prevent a pretty sticky art thief from making off with the Morning Star; a diamond that’s worth more than some countries’ defense budgets. Well, to that end, they are thoroughly undone by one “James Crown.” But that’s only the beginning.
“James Crown” is just an alias for a very charming art thief named Jeremy Archer. I suspect we can thank Archer’s cheekiness for a nod to the other fictional ‘Crown’ who also has a rather indictable appreciation of art. I suppose on the surface, it’s all a nod to The Thomas Crown Affair, but believe me, you’ll forget about that quickly enough.
First and foremost, this is a great spy-type fiction story. The BL is present and accounted for, but rather than overpowering the plot or worst, coming off as a tease, it blends in nice nicely. You cannot remove the BL and have the same story. Actually you can’t remove any element and have the same story and that’s one of the things that makes is so great. Chandler tells an intriguing story in less than 150 pages; no extra parts. Every word, every line, every gesture, every laugh, and every kiss are what makes the story–makes it solid.
Drake’s team, Springheel, Honda, Texas, Specs, and Specs Two are definitely a team. Their banter is easy and ripe with familiarity. Given the right conversation, they’d probably finish each others’ sentences. They regard their leader, but have no problem questioning him or making their grievances known. In return, Drake trusts them, relies them, but still wields the big stick (well, Texas might think otherwise).
Archer is a Brit and like most Brits to most Americans, he’s easy on the ears. He’s also a crafty, slippery sort, so it’s more than his across-the-pond charm that he gets by on. The development between he and Drake is entertaining, casual, sexy, and never out of place. Despite himself, Drake can’t help but award his target points for various displays of artfulness, so many that he reaches a count that almost requires him to like the guy–the extent to which evolves throughout the story. On the other hand, the degree to which Archer is attracted to Drake is immediately more apparent. I’m not sure if the team has picked up on it; if they have, they haven’t breathed a word of it.
And that is one of the many charms of the story. Because if his team still sees him as being himself, then you have one of the things I don’t see enough of: people not changing once they fall in mutual love/like/horniness with someone. It’s always a bit strange how jerks become nice guys and scaredy cats become brave when feelings are mutual. If I fell in love with a jerk for all his jerkiness, I think I’d feel like I was lied to when he changed into a decent human being. It sounds weird I know, but think of it the other way around. You would feel betrayed if a nice guy turned into a jerk or turned out to be a jerk, right? Most people would, because that’s not what they signed up for.
I could be jumping the gun–this is only the first book, after all and it sort of ends with a cliffhanger, but not really. And not that if his attitude does change noticeably, I won’t like it anymore–it’s a common point within a character’s development, so I’m used to it and I don’t actually dislike it; I just wish it would become less common or at least share the stage with other types of character developments.
Anyway, future developments aside, this was a great read and definitely one worthy of being picked up again. There are three more books to go and possibly some other bits, so I’ll be back to make updates on those in time.