An electrifying thriller about the rise of extremism. Two ritual murdersone in Rome and one in Jerusalemrekindles an ancient rivalry between modern-day secret societies for knowledge lost at the fall of the Third Reich. Detective Antoine Marcas unwillingly teams up with the strong-willed Jade Zewinski to chase Neo-Nazi assassins across Europe. They must unravel an arcane mystery, sparked by information from newly revealed KGB files. Inspired from the true story of mysterious Freemason files thought to hold a terrible secret, stolen by the SS in 1940, recovered by the Red Army in 1945 and returned half a century later. First in a hugely successful series that has sold over 1.5 million copies in France and is translated into seventeen languages.
About the Author
Eric Giacometti, an investigative reporter for a major French newspaper. He has covered a number of high-profile scandals and has done exhaustive research in the area of freemasonry.
Jacques Ravenne is a literary scholar who has also written a biography of the Marquis de Sade and edited his letters. He loves to explore the hidden side of major historical events.
Anne Trager loves France so much she has lived there for over a quarter of a century and just can’t seem to leave. What keeps her there is a uniquely French mix of pleasure seeking and creativity. Well, that and the wine. One day, she woke up one morning and said, “I just can’t stand it anymore. There are way too many good books being written in France not reaching a broader audience.” That’s when she founded Le French Book to translate some of those books into English. The company’s motto is “If we love it, we translate it,” and Anne loves crime fiction, mysteries and detective novels.
Read an Excerpt
By Éric Giacometti, Jacques Ravenne, Anne Trager
Le French BookCopyright © 2005 Editons Fleuve Noir, department d'Univers Poche
All rights reserved.
The speaker, a Generation Xer with jet-black hair, stood in front of a stylized sun painting. He scanned the room. It was silent.
This space in Rome's Alessandro di Cagliostro Freemason Lodge resembled a large dark-blue cavern. Thin rays of light shone down from the ceiling, which was adorned with stars to make it look like the night sky.
To his left and right were forty or so men in black suits, white aprons, and gloves. They were impassive, motionless, like statues made of flesh. There were also a few women in long robes.
He turned to the east, toward the man presiding over the meeting. "I have spoken, Worshipful Master," he said.
The master waited a few seconds and then pounded a wooden mallet on his small desk. Behind him hung a huge all-seeing Egyptian eye.
"Brothers and sisters, I would like to thank our brother Antoine Marcas for coming from France to speak to us. His lecture on the origins of ancient Masonic rites was quite instructive. He claims to just be a little curious, but it's clear that he has taken great pains to educate himself in our mysteries. I am sure you have many questions. Sisters and brothers, you may speak."
A brother clapped, asking to be acknowledged. The senior steward spoke the ritual words and invited him to speak.
"Worshipful Master in person, Worshipful Masters from the Orient, and my brothers and sisters, as we all know, our lodge was named after Alessandro di Cagliostro, and I would like to ask our distinguished brother Marcas to clarify, if possible, the origin of the Cagliostro ritual."
The speaker looked over the notes he had jotted down on three-by-five cards. "In 1784, in Lyon, France, Cagliostro inaugurated his High Egyptian Masonic Rite in the Triumphant Wisdom Lodge. According to current biographers, Cagliostro was initiated in Malta at the Saint John of Scotland Lodge of Secrecy and Harmony, which is where he founded the ritual that now bears his name."
Another man clapped.
Antoine Marcas took a closer look at the audience. Both Italian and French lodges were represented. He recognized the Grande Lodge brothers with their red-trimmed Scottish rite aprons and the Memphis Misraïm sisters dressed in white.
The worshipful master gave the floor to a brother with a strong Milanese accent, which made him sound very serious. "Italy's declining institutions and political corruption continue to make headlines. And the country's troubles appear to be affecting the rest of Europe, especially France. Some are accusing the Freemasons of being at least partly responsible for this situation. What do you have to say about this?"
Marcas nodded. He didn't like political questions.
Fifteen years earlier, his idealistic trust in the secular values of the republic had motivated him to become a Freemason. He was also excited by the promise of personal development. Since then, he had watched the image of freemasonry decline in France. Before, the media had praised Freemason contributions to education and conflict resolution. Now they were focused on scandal and mysterious networks of shadowy figures.
Marcas took time to choose his words. He wouldn't fully disclose his thoughts about anti-Freemason media campaigns or about the brothers who didn't deserve their aprons. For a while, Marcas had attended a lodge that was full of money launderers and others in cahoots with politicians skilled at rigging public contracts. The lodge was nestled in a suburban Paris townhouse and was rotten to the core. When he'd found out what was going on—a full year before the media went wild over it—he had changed lodges, refusing to condemn all of freemasonry with a handful of corrupt individuals. But doubt had taken seed. And so he dived into the history and symbolism of freemasonry, as if the past could wipe the present clean. Still, every time he read about a scandal involving a Freemason, he took it as a personal affront.
"France has not escaped the evils affecting all Western democracies. There's a rise in extremism, along with widespread distrust of elitism and power. Whether we deserve it or not, many people who don't know us consider us both powerful and manipulative. It's hard to shake that 'hoodwinker' slur. Let's not forget, too, that a good scandal—whether it's real or not—sells newspapers."
Marcas answered a few more questions, mixing his expertise with humor.
Then there was silence. The worshipful master took the floor and began the closing ritual, finally calling for the chain of unity.
One by one, the men and women rose, removed their gloves, and crossed their arms, taking their neighbors' hands to form a human chain around the center of the lodge.
The worshipful master repeated the words of the ritual. "This chain binds us in time and space. It comes to us from the past and stretches toward the future. It connects us to those who came before us."
Each phase of this ritual and many others had been refined over the centuries, and every participant knew his role perfectly, as though it were a play.
The stewards held mallets across their chests. The master of ceremonies struck the floor with a metal-tipped cane while a mason called a tyler continued to guard the door, a sword in his right hand.
Marcas proclaimed the final pledge. "Liberty, equality, fraternity."
The meeting was over, and the temple calmly emptied.
In the anteroom, the worshipful master—an aristocratic-looking banker—called out to Marcas in perfect French, "Will you stay and have something to eat?"
Marcas smiled. In every lodge around the world, eating and drinking followed these meetings.
"Alas, no, brother. I'm expected at the French embassy. There's a Victory in Europe Day shindig. But I plan to come back tomorrow to consult some rare books in your library."
Marcas said good-bye to his host and walked down the black marble staircase to the ground floor. He left the building, pulled up his coat collar against the wind, and hailed a cab.
"Palazzo Farnese, please."
As the cab made its way through the Eternal City, Marcas's thoughts wandered. He gazed at the Piazza Campo de Fiori, where more than five hundred years earlier, the papacy had burned philosopher Giordano Bruno at the stake. Marcas thought Bruno would have made a good "widow's son," which some Freemasons called themselves. The widow was the wife of Hiram Abiff, the legendary architect of King Solomon's Temple, and the son was a reference to Hiram's descendants, Freemasons around the world.
Things had changed a bit since Giordano was burned at the stake, although the Catholic Church still frowned on freemasonry. The Church held that freemasonry espoused a naturalistic religion—a parallel religion that rivaled the Gospel.
This didn't bother Marcas. He hadn't attended church in a long time, although he was still very much a seeker. He had been drawn to the Freemasons' ethics and body of knowledge, which were based on the idea that one needed to strive continually toward self-improvement and enlightenment. He liked freemasonry's opportunities for fellowship and education. And the Freemason rituals more than satisfied any yearnings he might have had for the church liturgies that he had left behind.
The sight of the Farnese Palace at the end of the street drew Marcas out of his thoughts. The elegant edifice was glowing, and in the courtyard, expensive cars were performing an intricate ballet as they let out well-dressed partygoers.
Marcas felt for the invitation in the inside pocket of his jacket.
A tingle of enjoyment ran up his spine. He liked the contrasts of his life. Less than a half hour earlier, he had been giving a serious speech in a solemn setting. In a few minutes, he would be mingling with the moneyed set in a luxurious palace that was now the French embassy. And in two days, he would be back at his seedy police station in Paris.
The taxi stopped behind an impressive line of limousines a few hundred feet from the palace. Marcas paid the fare.
He felt a gentle breeze from the south and looked up. The leaves in the nearby trees were quivering. Evenings were cool at this time of year, and Marcas took a moment to enjoy the fleeting springtime air before the brutal summer heat took hold.
Marcas walked up to the doorman, who was wearing a black suit, a white shirt, a black tie, and an earpiece. The guy could have a future as a bodyguard in Hollywood, Marcas thought. The man looked him up and down and let him in without saying a word.
He had barely stepped in when he spotted a hostess in a blue suit walking toward him. With her were two beautiful women who looked to be in their thirties. They offered to show him in.
The night was off to a good start.CHAPTER 2
When it was early May, and the wisteria plants were blossoming, Marek would work late into the night and keep the windows in the lab open to better enjoy the scent of the flowers.
Jerusalem's Archeological Research Institute was headquartered in a sprawling brick building that the English had built. Its high ceilings were reminiscent of the lost grandeur of an empire. Marek loved its antiquated, nearly abandoned look.
He heard the sprinklers click on outside and gazed once again at two of the mementos on his large worktable: his yellowing dissertation and a hockey stick with flaking paint that he had brought back as a souvenir from the United States, where he had lived for a time.
Marek observed two birthdays every year. The first was the day he was born. The second was the day he was reborn. A walking skeleton, he had been liberated in the spring of 1945 from Dachau. He had made two oaths on that day. The first was to flee the cursed continent of Europe and start over again. He had gone to America. Then, in the nineteen fifties, he had immigrated to Israel, becoming one of the country's top specialists in Biblical times—a kind of wiseman, he thought: old, mischievous, erudite.
Marek let his mind drift for a moment before he returned to the file on his desk. Two hundred and forty pages, single-spaced. Five test reports from distinguished geology, chemistry, and micro-archeology laboratories, with diagram after diagram and long lists of references.
When the shifty Armenian dealer Alex Perillian had brought the stone in to be authenticated, he knew right away that it was genuine. Artifacts were a big—and clandestine—business, and Marek had seen his fair share of shady characters seeking certificates of authenticity for worthless relics. But this stone was different. The Tebah Stone, Perillian had called it, bought from a family of goatherds for a hundred dollars. But worth infinitely more.
Marek set down the file and opened the linen cloth. A fragment of a stone tablet lay there. It measured sixty-two by twenty-seven centimeters, and it vibrated with history. The bottom-left corner was chipped, and the end of the inscription was missing, but the remaining words had resisted the assault of time. Was it from pure luck? Or had someone kept it safe? This piece of stone bore a truth passed down through the centuries, a message, written by a hand whose bones had long since returned to dust.
Marek's palms were sweaty. Original texts were extremely rare, and ever since the discovery of the Dead Sea manuscripts, the state of Israel and the major monotheistic religions had kept a close watch over all finds that could shake their foundations.
His conclusions were concise. "Based on mineralogical analyses, the Cambrianera stone could have originated in one of three geological regions: southern Israel, the Sinai and Jordan, or south of the Dead Sea. Analysis of the surface alterations reveals the presence of silica, aluminum, calcium, magnesium, and iron, along with traces of wood, which date to 500 BCE, plus or minus forty years with carbon-14. It could very well date to the rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon."
Marek stopped. King Salomon's temple was a mythic spot for Jews, said to hold the Arc of the Covenant and the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. It had been plundered and destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Cyrus the Great of Persia ordered the Second Temple to be built on the same site. Herod the Great embellished it under Roman occupation.
Cyrus's temple reconstruction in 520 BCE was a key moment in Jewish history, and every artifact related to it was priceless. Marek weighed the stone in his hand. The money meant nothing to Marek. This stone was the missing link, the final element in his quest to honor Henri's memory, to fulfill his second oath.
All he needed now were the documents from Paris. He stared at the relic and started to tremble. Was it really such a good idea to be waking the dead?CHAPTER 3
A flute of vintage Tattinger Champagne in hand, Antoine Marcas scanned the vast reception hall. He couldn't help thinking of all the pomp surrounding ambassadors. Yes, France did like to strut. It was hard to get more sumptuous than the Palazzo Farnese. Even the name evoked the splendors of near-absolute magnificence: the Italian Renaissance, an era of princes, freewheeling cardinals, and courtesans skilled at damning the lords of the Church. The wealthy Farnese family had built this residence in the middle of the sixteenth century. They were nobles from Latium who boasted a pope—Paul III—in their lineage. The pontiff's own son, however, had been excommunicated because of his taste for plundering and rape.
Laughter and voices were bouncing off the walls.
"Antoine, I hope you're enjoying yourself. It's quite a change from the police headquarters in Paris, isn't it?"
Startled, Marcas turned around. It was Alexis Jaigu, a former military man who was now an intelligence officer on some assignment in Rome. Jaigu was the friend who had invited him to this affair.
"Alexis! You must save me. Find me a woman in this crowd of beauties."
Jaigu made circles with his fingers and brought them to his eyes. "Tall blonde at two o'clock, flaming redhead at six. Two apparently isolated targets without patrol escorts. Intelligence report: the blonde heads up marketing for a San Paolo bank. The redhead is second-in-command at an Israeli company that dabbles in arms sales to emerging countries."
"Too high-powered for me. You wouldn't have a more classic model—a painter or dancer, someone a little more artistic?"
"So I take it you're finally over your ex-wife. It's about time. How's your son?"
"He's living with his mother," Marcas said, looking away. He didn't like to talk about his divorce. Cops never stayed married long, and Marcas was no exception to that rule. He had spent many sleepless nights after his wife left him, along with difficult weekends with his son who blamed him for the separation. Some men in his shoes found solace in drink, others in one-night stands. Marcas had buried himself at the Freemason lodge, focused on his symbolism studies. It had taken a full year before he started dating again. But he was still single. One of his occasional dates had told him to let go of his ex before bidding him good night. Marcas had laughed. The only time he thought of his ex-wife was when he wrote the alimony check at the end of the month or when he received one of her hateful letters full of accusations.
Jaigu grabbed a toast with Périgord foie gras from a platter. "Hey, do you know the ambassador?"
"I can't say I do."
"So he's not a Freemason, like you?"
Marcas stiffened. "I'm no snitch. Ask him yourself."
"You're joking, right? I don't want to get sent to some faraway consulate in Africa. It's a favor I'm asking. Don't you have some sort of secret code of recognition? A special handshake or something?"
Marcas sighed. It was always the same stupidities: occult influence, signs of recognition—the folklore. How many times had his hand been kneaded by overly familiar non-Masons who had read a few things about freemasonry?
"Sorry, I can't."
"At least say you don't want to, Antoine. How long have we known each other? And you still cover for the ambassador? A man you've never even met? You brothers really do stick together."
Marcas didn't want to get into a long explanation with his now-tipsy friend. He knew Jaigu well, and tomorrow the man would be full of apologies.
"Drop it, Alexis."
"I won't press. And I won't hold it against you. Let me introduce you to two superb actresses who are waiting for nobody but us," Jaigu said, throwing his arm around Marcas's shoulder and leading him to the terrace.
Excerpted from Shadow Ritual by Éric Giacometti, Jacques Ravenne, Anne Trager. Copyright © 2005 Editons Fleuve Noir, department d'Univers Poche. Excerpted by permission of Le French Book.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
“This first book in the adventures of Inspector Antoine Marcas brings to light the true and astonishing story of the Freemason archives stolen from Paris by the Germans in 1940, then recovered in Berlin by the Soviets after the war. This story explores how the Vichy Regime persecuted Freemasons and the rise of Neo-Nazi movements in modern-day Europe.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tightly written thriller. Marcas is a Freemason and a cop. He is to help investigate a murder that happened in the French embassy in Rome which has Freemason ties. His partner for the case, Jade, has no use for Masons so he has an uphill battle dealing with her. She comes to rely on him as the case proceeds. I loved this! I was on the edge of my seat throughout the book. It was a page turner. The characters are good. Marcas and Jade are fun to watch. I liked that Marcas explained different Mason symbols and history as the investigation went on and had influence on the case. As everyone is trying to find the parts needed for the secret, as well as the murder, it turns out not to be what I expected. I cannot wait to read book 2 in the series. I highly recommend this.
There is a lot of information about Freemasonry in Shadow Ritual, so if the international society of Freemasons strikes you as mysterious or if the idea of an evil, global conspiracy dating from before the Nazis intrigues you, then Shadow Ritual might appeal to you. Also, if you read and enjoyed The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown or his 2009 book The Lost Symbol, which was also about Freemasonry, or at least about its more mysterious aspects. So Shadow Ritual was not my cup of tea, unfortunately, but it may be yours!
I thought this was a good book with a lot of twist, turns and action to keep the story moving along at a good pace. I enjoyed how the two secret societies played a part in this story. The authors did a good job with all the details of the story so you did not miss anything. If you are a fan of Dan Brown's books then you will also enjoy this one. I found myself wanting see what was going to happen next. All in all a good book to keep you engrossed the entire time you are reading it.