In the nineteenth century, the Knights of the Golden Circle existed to bring wealth and power to southern, slave-holding states. When the abolitionist movement increased in power – and ultimately, the Civil War commenced – the KoGC sought to raise funds to overthrow the federal government. Having lain dormant for years, the Circle is drawn out by a fraction element who want to acquire their long forgotten cache for their own uses. This collision of the two sections of the Circle draws the attention of astute agents of the Justice Department, namely Cotton Malone, in Steve Berry’s twelfth novel in the series.
While Malone works with Cassiopeia Vitt, his longtime handler Stephanie Nelle is sidelined and ex-President Danny Daniels is given a more prominent role than in previous Berry novels. Here is where the book became slightly muddled for me: as an ‘a-political,’ I find the impact of the decisions made by secret societies more interesting than the way Berry wanted me to be engaged in the way the one side of the Circle would use the funds to change political operations of Congress. For me, the National Treasure aspects were always more interesting.
While we have grown accustomed to Berry’s principal characters, the fact that Nelle could be taken out opened up a more interesting, tense understanding of the action; it’s like watching Luke lose a hand in Empire Strikes Back and realizing that the good guys can actually get hurt and die (not just the old ones, Obi Wan). The stakes in The Lost Order are higher because of it, adding a level of suspense and danger that exceeded the previous books. Still, it ultimately seems to spin its wheels a few times (and certainly gives the impression that old, ex-presidents are stripped of their powers completely). If Malone and Daniels are who we have grown to believe they are, I imagine they’d have stopped the Circle long before the end of the novel.