The Lost Order: Steve Berry
The story begins with a prologue that dates back to 1865 and the many treasure hunters that have searched for many years hoping to uncover billions of dollars in stolen gold and silver all hidden in caches across the United States. The group that is most deadly that you meet in the past and again the in present is The Knights of the Golden Circle. They are a clandestine organization in American History. They were they ones that gathered and amassed this fortune and they are the ones that buried it but now in the present 160 years later there are not one but two factions of what remains of this clandestine organization who wants and will stop at nothing to get the treasure to spend for their own ends and uses and the other to preserve it.
In the present we meet former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone whose connection stems back to the knights as we also meet Angus “Cotton” Malone his ancestor and Confederate spy whose linked to the center of the controversy the Smithsonian Institute and the knights. Malone being an ancestor of Angus is at the heart of this story and when approached and asked to find out more about the gold, go after it and bring back what he can find as it is a fact finding mission that turns ugly and dangerous. Added in we learn of the murder of Alex Sherwood a state senator, his death suspicious and his wife, Diane, not appearing too upset as she and the Speaker of the House, Vance have their own agenda and what she plans will forever change the complexion and dynamics of our government and shift power to those that are there but not for the good of the people. Diane is embittered and the wife of the late United States Senator and along with The Speaker of the House they have a plan to change the country and not in a good way. Working with her is her brother Kenneth who she considers lame and power and gutless but that does not stop her.
Cotton knows that he is in above his head as he finds himself face to face with an elderly man, his granddaughter and a huge shotgun. Learning more about Terry Morse and his granddaughter Lea, he understands that he is a sentinel and is guard in the woods what gold that has been buried there for many years. But, added in Malone needs help and out of nowhere appears Cassiopeia Vitt, who works along with him and past-ex-president Danny Daniels and Stephanie Nelle of the Magellan Billet to learn more about what is behind what The Speaker and Diane are up to and why and how to learn more about where all the gold is buried. The man setting is the Smithsonian and the characters find themselves in the deepest woods of Arkansas where we meet the sentinels, the enemies that are hoping to take Morse out and two groups that will stop at nothing to complete their goal. From the rural woods in Arkansas to the rugged mountains of New Mexico our country’s fate is held in the hands of just a few, as our dark past becomes a beacon in the present.
The author relates the background of the House and the Senate, their power struggles, how they operate and the fact that the Senate sort of follows the House who seems to be running things. However, the history is quite comprehensive and what you learn about the workings of our government helps bring to light what dangers will befall it if the Speaker and Diane succeed. But, Cotton faces off with several who claim to be members of the Knights of the Golden Circle and Lea and Cassiopeia the other half as both fight for their lives but will they survive? But, an encounter with someone close to Diane takes on a murderous tone as the Supreme Court Justice Weston enlists Stephanie Nellie’s help but this would place her in grave danger. As she learns about Martin Thomas and his connection to the Smithsonian and the fact that he allowed Diane Sherwood to look out sensitive documents and allowed her to borrow them as a regent of the Museum, things turn ugly and dangerous. Diane wants her husband out of the way. She, her brother and the Speaker of the house have something in the works that would divert the power from the President to the Speaker making him more powerful. All roads lead to the cache of gold and the vault it is hidden in as Danny Daniels finds his way to the oldest member of the Order and someone who is still in the Knight of the Golden Circle and who claims to know where the vault is, where the secrets are buried and where the five stones are that will lead them to billions of dollars are gold. The Trail Stone, the Horse Stone, The Witches Stone, The Heart Stone and the Alpha Stone: Five in all.
The Constitution allows the Senate and the House to set their own internal rules. They can do pretty much whatever they want and the courts have little say or power in the matter. Vance wants to add a new rule that states, “That the House of Representatives will consider, and vote only on legislation that originates in the House.” Believe it or not it is constitutional and legal. It is how the country was run and governed for the first twenty years. There was no rule although it was true that back then the Senate had little power and was nothing. All legislation came from the House. The Senate would read it, look at it, offer and amendment, maybe, then vote yes or no and send it back to the house. The purpose as Teddy Solomon states would be by not considering any legislation except that would originates from the House, there would no longer be any worries about the U.S. Senate. Bills would start as the author explains in detail in the House, be approved and then sent to the Senate to propose or concur with Amendments. Both houses would have to agree to pass the bill sent to the President but the Senate’s role would be advisory and the House would become the dominant legislative body.
While this is happening and the discussion keeps going Danny Daniels and Rick Stamm the curator of the Smithsonian are looking for what happened when the remains James Smithson were exhumed and what the former curator Frank Breckinridge had to do with it. While pretending to be insane or having dementia he fooled many including his own son who killed Martin Thomas, would go after Diane and anyone else that stands in his way to get the gold. Read the account of what happened and what was found when the bones were exhumed on pages 335-336.
While this is all happening Cassiopeia is fighting for her life when Proctor and his men once again capture her and Lea. Throwing them both down a dangerous hole and trying to fill it with dirt will they survive? Just who belongs to the Knights of the Golden Circle and who is the real head of the Order? The author shares a conversation between John Henry and Angus Adams, which reveals that the Federals were looking for the Confederate government records and they knew they had been evacuated from Richmond and were told that they were to be presented and given to the Smithsonian. They discussed that a donation was to be made to this institution but Henry never learned the details and no donation was made. This was related to Grant by his father who had his own agenda thinking that the gold should stay buried, the entrance to the vault sealed and the billions belonging to no one. Next we learn more about Taisley Forsberg and that she learns that someone broke into Alex’s apartment for the key that would open the vault. Words fly, threats and then someone thinking they had it all learns just what a deadly betrayal is as no one is safe from anyone that wants the gold and just where is Cotton, who is helping him and what happens when he confronts the Chancellor of the institution?
With his father Grand slipped into the Castle and found their way to Schermer Hall with the key card that once belong to Martin Thomas. Wanting Grant to be there when Cotton and Stamm open Smithson’s tomb. Just what they find is pictured on page 358 in vivid detail of the Heart stone and the Trail Stone in a graphic that combines them both. As Danny Daniels and his friend Paul are riding together another piece of the puzzle comes to light as a single hidden voice explains it all. When Cotton/AKA Captain Adams faces Frank once again what happens next opens up new doors, reveals more lies and deceptions as information about Kenneth Layne, Diane’s brother is revealed, what he knew about Alex Sherwood, why she wanted him stopped and the end result being a double agent. Five Stones when placed together what will they reveal? Will Cotton finally be able to read what they mean, place them in the right order and find his way to the hidden vault? Will Cassiopeia survive or will she be another casualty? Her watch with the GPS was located but where was she? Just as things could not get any worse she faced a mountain lion, Jack Proctor and hoped that somehow Cotton would find her? As Stephanie Nelle is still in a coma, Danny by her side when he can be there and a demented senator’s wife thinking she owns it all. But, desperation comes into play and someone else suffers from the greed and hate of another. When the final pieces come together and Stephanie does wake up what happens could cost her and Danny their lives.
While they hope that the killer whose gun is pointed at them does misses the mark, Cotton and Stamm uncover the final pieces to where they vault and the gold might be. Will they be able to open the vault? What about the explosions? An ending that only author Steve Berry can create as you the reader along with Danny, Cotton, Stamm and Cassiopeia follow the stones, their symbols on pages 446-447-448 hoping to find the billions of dollars of gold. What was the Last Order or Last Command? Read the final words of Cotton Adams and learn the secret of the vault, the gold and just where it is meant to go when found? Will Cotton and Danny honor the last words of his ancestor? “ I order you to likewise bestow all that you see herein the Smithsonian and , as the last of the generation that created your cause, to abandon any fight, support a unified United States, and obey your oath of allegiance by doing as I have commanded.” Cotton Adams October 6, 1892. But, will they? A map hidden in the Smithsonian, billions in lost confederate gold, modern day rebellion in the making, and a war that will make the civil war pale by comparison. The LOST ORDER: THE LAST COMMAND: WILL IT BE HONORED?