A secret society, a treasure hunt, a plot to legally change how our government functions, a few murders, and at the heart of it all, The Smithsonian Institution. These are the elements of Steve Berry's latest Cotton Malone novel, The Lost Order (#679) and, like most of his novels, many of the people, places and events here are based on historical fact.
Prior to the Civil War, a powerful and influential secret society was formed by Southerners and those sympathetic to their cause - the Knights of the Golden Order. When the Confederacy was defeated, it went underground, supposedly dying out around the turn of the century. For many years, rumors have abounded of a secret hoard of gold which vanished along with the Knights. Cotton Malone and his companion, Cassiopeia Vitt, have been sent to Arkansas by the Chancellor of the Smithsonian to track down clues to the treasure's location. When Malone is attacked after unearthing some gold coins buried in the woods, they realize that they are not the only ones searching for the gold.
Meanwhile, Danny Daniels is finding life after being President of the United States boring in Blount County, Tennessee. He is devastated to learn of the drowning death of his old friend, Senator Alex Sherwood on his nearby estate. When Danny attends the funeral, he sees and hears things that make him suspect that Diane Sherwood is not quite the grieving widow she appears to be. Political strings are being pulled, and his gut instinct tells him that the outcome will not be good. When the head of the Magellan Billet is shot and lies in a coma, Danny Daniels and Cotton Malone begin to pick at the knots tying all these seemingly unrelated events together.
There were some interesting (and potentially frightening!) premises in this thriller about Washington power plays, secret societies and whether or not the treasure of the Knights of the Golden Order still exists somewhere out there as a vast hoard of gold and Confederate Records. In The Lost Order, the clues were hidden in the Smithsonian, which holds millions of objects of every conceivable type in its many museums, libraries and research centers. Steve Berry serves on a Citizen's Advisory Board for the Smithsonian Libraries and this novel is his opportunity to highlight this amazing National Treasure. What better place to set a mystery?