Friday, April 6, 2012

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Besides being one of history’s highest esteemed Renaissance men, Leonardo Da Vinci is also a figure shrouded in the mystery he left behind in his work; mysteries that thriller novelist Dan Brown made use of to write The Da Vinci Code, an entertaining and at times thought-provoking whodunit that somehow manages to be a light read despite all the extensive research that has gone into it.

The murder mystery begins in the Musée du Louvre, where the curator, Jacques Saunière, has been shot to death, his body laid out in the pose of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. During the final minutes of his life, Saunière managed to leave behind a cryptic message, and the police summon Harvard professor Robert Langdon—described as looking like Harrison Ford—and cryptographer Sophie Neveu—who happens to be Saunière’s estranged granddaughter—to decode it. What they discover leads them to dealings with Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion, Westminster Abbey in England, the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, and eventually to revelations about Jesus Christ and the Holy Grail that the Vatican has been keeping secret for centuries.

An effective method Brown has of keeping the pages turning is his short chapters—some as short as a page or less—most of them ending in cliffhangers. He knows how to keep the suspense going with twists, turns and new revelations. Readers who hold an interest in art history and theology ought to have plenty to relish, and more to discover. Though not always accurate, Brown’s assessment of secret societies and their enigmatic rituals should appeal the curiosity of the masses.

Besides the interesting theories, the history lesson made fun, and a good amount of suspense and action, The Da Vinci Code does not offer much more in the way of substance. The characters are underdeveloped and forgettable, the ending anticlimactic, and the writing style lackluster. While readers can expect to have a good time, they should not be setting their standards too high for Brown, as his creative vision only goes so far.

In a nutshell, The Da Vinci Code is a fun, gimmicky romp involving secret societies, conspiracy theories and a pseudo-Indiana Jones. Those who enjoyed this one should probably pick up Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol, two similar thrillers also featuring the protagonist Robert Langdon.

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