Book Review – The Da Vinci Code

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With Peter Mietzner

JUST as the Harry Potter books had everybody up in a tizzy with the wizards and what not, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code literally let loose the hellion of the netherworld – were one to believe all or most of the hype that the surrounded the publishing of this book. The Christians were up in arms. The Catholic Church nearly exorcised every copy they could and were close to excommunicating the author – had he but been a Catholic.

Opus Dei, the organisation mentioned in the book with several barbed and pointed remarks, wrote a denial longer than the original book.

But was all the fuss about?

Basically just another view of what could have happened all those many years ago after the crucifixion. It also poses the question whether Mary Magdalene was a lady of the night or the lady in the life of Jesus Christ – and the mother of his children …

What is the story all about?

Well, in The Da Vinci Code, art historian and religious symbologist, Robert Langdon, is summoned to the Louvre to help investigate the murder of its curator. Joined by a French government employee who is revealed to have a relationship to the victim, he starts a suspenseful flight from the authorities, moving from various locations of France to England and beyond.

The dead man left a series of cryptic clues and symbols near his body before he died. With the help of cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, Langdon discovers that some of the clues are hidden in Da Vinci’s famous painting, “The Vitruvian Man.” He also learns that Da Vinci, along with Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Botticelli, belonged to a secret society called the Priory of Sion.

Also involved are other religious groups and secret societies who are out to stop Langdon and Neveu at any cost. This thriller’s breakneck pace, ingenious clues and escapes, and sharp intelligence have already sent it to the top of bestseller lists.

Dan Brown almost got it right in his last novel, Angels & Demons. But his smart, thought-provoking thriller collapsed in the end as its protagonist, Harvard symbologist, Langdon, succumbed to a late burst of Rambo-style action heroism.

In The Da Vinci Code (Doubleday; some 400 pages), Langdon returns in a smarter, more compelling yarn, and this time Brown wisely keeps the testosterone level in check.

This story has so many twists – all satisfying, most unexpected – that it would be a sin to reveal too much of the plot in advance. Let’s just say that if this novel doesn’t get your pulse racing, you need to check your meds.

Brown does a terrific job of spooling out the controversial history lesson without ever lapsing into pedantry or preaching.

As the facts come spilling out, the pace of the story picks up and the level of excitement builds. There are lots of puzzles to be solved and a gnawing sense of urgency. Best of all, Brown doesn’t cheat on the ending. He could have very easily left readers hanging.

This is good fun – Umberto Eco on steroids. And for those with an appetite for more, the Internet bristles with extra info about the book’s central conspiracy theory.

Now that the book has gone into its umpteenth reprint, used copies can be picked up quite cheaply and it is worth a nice weekend read.

Just be careful. Brown is an excellent salesman and will start believing many of his statements that are not strictly true.

You know, typically Public Relations. The Truth is Out There – go find it.

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