John Lawrence Reynolds
Canadian mystery writer Reynolds's irreverent guide lacks an overarching thesis or philosophical dimension yet is packed with playfully presented information. The author begins by describing the 11th-century Iranian-based cult known as the Assassins, noting its obvious parallels with al-Qaeda. Next, he traces the history of the Freemasons and the Illuminati, observing that 'any review of U.S. history encounters Freemasons lurking behind every treaty, battle and statute.' He then proceeds to sketch the complex history of the French cabal the Priory of Sion; details the belief systems of the Druids and Gnostics and their differing attitudes to secrecy; and explores how followers of the Kabbalah, 'neither a religion nor an organization, ' came to be considered 'secretive and sinister' (Reynolds comments lightheartedly on how 'the Kabbalah was transformed into a supermarket of pious accoutrements' by the Kabbalah Center in L.A.). Chapters on Triads, the Mafia and Yakuza are adept in their focus on immigration and minority cultural traditions in American society. Reynolds is most provocative when drawing links between Skull and Bones and the CIA. He closes with a brief history of conspiracy theory, anti-Semitism and the risks of paranoid allegations.