THE DA VINCI CODE
Dan Brown


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Doubleday, April 2003
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Robert Langdon, a professor of religious symbology at Harvard University, is awakened in the Hotel Ritz Paris in the middle of the night by the French equivalent of the FBI. The renowned curator of The Louvre Museum, Jacques Sauniere, has been found dead inside the Grand Gallery. Capitaine Bezu Fache seeks Langdon's help decoding the cryptic message left by Sauniere, whose body is found stark naked adorned with a symbol drawn in his own blood. Le Capitaine found Langdon's name in the curator's appointment book but Langdon says Sauniere never showed up for their scheduled meeting after his lecture at the American University in Paris.

Sophie Neveu, a cryptographer for the Direction Centrale Police Judiciaire is called in on the murder investigation, but her coworkers don't realize until it's too late that Sophie is Sauniere's estranged granddaughter. When Sophie sees the crime scene and the cryptic message left by her grandfather, she realizes before anyone else that the message was meant for her, but she needs Langdon's help to decipher what the message means.

Due to his special studies in iconography, Langdon knows the history and legends of The Priory of Sion. A secret society, established in 1099, whose mission was to protect secret documents found during the Crusades by the Knights Templars. Leonardo Da Vinci, a Grand Master of the secret society, is believed to have left clues about the secrets within his artistic masterpieces.

From the beginning Capitaine Bezu Fache suspects Langdon of the murder. But when Neveu intervenes, she and Langdon find themselves on the run from authorities. Racing across Paris and London, they join forces to find the secrets of the Priory of Sion and the real murderer.

Masterfully plotted employing ancient history, religion, conspiracy and technology, Dan Brown has written the most intriguing and shocking mystery tale I've ever read. Suspenseful and fast paced, I loved the coded messages and art history angle of the story. I also found it helpful to access the works of Leonardo Da Vinci online as I read. An intelligent tale with an incredible amount of research, history lovers will find the secret society of Priory of Sion, whose members included Da Vinci, Botticelli, Sir Isaac Newton and Victor Hugo, fascinating and eye-opening. Sometimes it's hard to tell where the true facts end and fiction begins, the mark of an amazing storyteller in my opinion. Mystery lovers and conspiracy theorists will be enthralled with THE DA VINCI CODE, while some readers may be disturbed and offended by the premise.

THE DA VINCI CODE'S mystery is based on the controversial theory of a cover up by the Early Church. The story follows a thread of obscure historical details, ancient symbols, and clues within the artwork of Leonardo Da Vinci, with just enough real facts thrown in to create an explosive theory. Sadly, Brown makes a few too many leaps of faith for my tastes and in the process, paints the Early Church and Christianity as propagandist, and anyone silly enough to believe in Christ's deity, foolish. Brown does an excellent job of leading readers down a road of scandalous theories, and I have no doubt this will be one of the most talked about books of the year.

THE DA VINCI CODE debuted at number one on The New York Times Bestseller List and made every other bestseller list as well. Sony Pictures, along with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are reportedly developing the novel into a movie. The fictional character, Robert Langdon, is also featured in Dan Brown's previous novel ANGELS AND DEMONS. Portrayed as a liberal-minded, bookish historian, and described by a journalist within the novel as a "Harrison Ford type in a tweed jacket," Langdon seems remarkably similar to Jack Ryan, the main character in Tom Clancy's novels. Langdon, like Ryan, comes across as a reluctant hero who gets unwittingly drawn into treacherous situations. ANGELS AND DEMONS and Brown's upcoming novel are reported to be based on murder and secret societies themes. For the readers who enjoy a fascination with code breaking, the cover art itself contains hidden clues. To enter the Random House Da Vinci Code contest go to: thedavincicode.com and see if you can decipher the encrypted clues hidden on the cover art.

 

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