I had expected yet another Da Vinci Code derivative, which it is in a way, but was pleasantly surprised by the writing which draws you into the story and makes disbelief easy to suspend.
The story evolves in alternate chapters, one set in the 12th century, the other in the present day. The former focuses on the life of Peter of Camros, a Norman who grows up in Wales and then in France after his family are murdered by renegade knights.
Intended for the church at eight years old, all is changed by these events and he trains to become a knight and his life unfolds he plays a part in creating the circumstances that will lead to a centuries old stalemate between the forces of light and darkness.
The catalyst in breaking this stalemate is Ellie Stanton, an Oxford post-graduate student from a humble background who is offered a well-paid job with the secretive and sinister Monsalvat Bank. Apart from her intelligence, she brings no particular skill or knowledge that you normally find in heroes of this genre — cryptography, arcane history, theology, that sort of thing — and she becomes beglamoured by wealth and power.
The Lazarus Vault has a long, fizzing fuse. For three-quarters of the book, you know that something is going on, but you are left guessing as to what it is, but the storytelling is strong enough to carry it.
The object of the tale is an ancient artifact, or two in fact, and you are left to draw your own conclusions as to their origin. Neither do they do anything, no magic or the ruin of the world, it is what they represent that matters. And the lengths that the men of both light and darkness will go to to possess them.
Both Peter and Ellie are both pawns in a complex game of chess who become more powerful pieces. Peter a knight in both senses and Ellie the pawn who becomes a queen.
If you enjoy Dan Brown mysteries, but would prefer a better writing style and character and plot credibility, The Lazarus Vault is for you. A definite nine out of ten.