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The Da Vinci Code Hardcover – March 18, 2003
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With The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown masterfully concocts an intelligent and lucid thriller that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history.
A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ. The victim is a high-ranking agent of this ancient society who, in the moments before his death, manages to leave gruesome clues at the scene that only his granddaughter, noted cryptographer Sophie Neveu, and Robert Langdon, a famed symbologist, can untangle. The duo become both suspects and detectives searching for not only Neveu's grandfather's murderer but also the stunning secret of the ages he was charged to protect. Mere steps ahead of the authorities and the deadly competition, the mystery leads Neveu and Langdon on a breathless flight through France, England, and history itself. Brown (Angels and Demons) has created a page-turning thriller that also provides an amazing interpretation of Western history. Brown's hero and heroine embark on a lofty and intriguing exploration of some of Western culture's greatest mysteries--from the nature of the Mona Lisa's smile to the secret of the Holy Grail. Though some will quibble with the veracity of Brown's conjectures, therein lies the fun. The Da Vinci Code is an enthralling read that provides rich food for thought. --Jeremy Pugh
From Publishers Weekly
Brown's latest thriller (after Angels and Demons)is an exhaustively researched page-turner about secret religious societies, ancient coverups and savage vengeance. The action kicks off in modern-day Paris with the murder of the Louvre's chief curator, whose body is found laid out in symbolic repose at the foot of the Mona Lisa. Seizing control of the case are Sophie Neveu, a lovely French police cryptologist, and Harvard symbol expert Robert Langdon, reprising his role from Brown's last book. The two find several puzzling codes at the murder scene, all of which form a treasure map to the fabled Holy Grail. As their search moves from France to England, Neveu and Langdon are confounded by two mysterious groups-the legendary Priory of Sion, a nearly 1,000-year-old secret society whose members have included Botticelli and Isaac Newton, and the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei. Both have their own reasons for wanting to ensure that the Grail isn't found. Brown sometimes ladles out too much religious history at the expense of pacing, and Langdon is a hero in desperate need of more chutzpah. Still, Brown has assembled a whopper of a plot that will please both conspiracy buffs and thriller addicts.
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The plot can be summed up quickly. Robert Langdon, a Harvard Professor of Religious Symbology, is summoned from his Paris hotel room to the Louvre, where curator Jacques Sauniere has been strangely murdered. Sauniere left behind cryptic clues as to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail, long protected by a secret brotherhood called the Priory Of Sion. Its up to Langdon, accused of the murder, and Agent Sophie Neveu from the French police cryptology division to unravel the secrets of Sauniere's code before the Opus Dei religious sect steals the secret of the Grail; and they will stop at nothing.
Though I found it easy to guess who The Teacher was, and found the ending to be almost an apology, the story was fast paced and entertaining in a vanilla sort of way. What made this book rise from three to four stars was the beauty of the Illustrated Edition.
The Illustrated Edition is packed with full color photos of items mentioned in the book, such as a 'cilice belt' and the nautilus of a shell, but also the pieces of art mentioned and photos of places such as the Louvre, Westminster Abbey, and the many cathedrals mentioned. I believe I would have been lost at times without the visual references, or spending a lot of time googling images. The Illustrated Edition made the story faster, more colorful, and easier to read.
The book is very beautiful. You get the feeling you are holding an art book and reading a fantastical history, but must remind yourself this is simply a work of fiction no matter how many references were used. Fiction twists fact even while it exposes it. Overall, I would say this is a good story made much better by spending a few extra dollars for the Illustrated Edition. Enjoy!
Brown has emerged from journeyman writer to master storyteller, deserving credit for calling attention to the brilliance Leonardo DaVinci, the art of the Renaissance, the origins of Christianity, and many other important historical events that up till now were cloaked in almost as much obscurity as pre-DaVinci Brown himself. His adrenaline-charged fiction has us pouring through art books to inspect DaVinci's "Last Supper" and "The Mona Lisa", diving deep into our encyclopedias to discover the mysteries of The Holy Grail, Fibonacci numbers and golden ratios, and I'd bet more than a few cracking open their Bible for some fact checking. While certainly no homage to Christianity, the influences of Paganism in the early church and church symbolism are hardly deniable, and if the references to Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ cannot be taken too seriously, it is fun conjecture in spite of one's religious beliefs. While for sure a less than positive portrayal of the Catholic Church, one never feels that Brown's purpose is to preach or proselytize, but merely to entertain. And therein lies the magic of "The DaVinci Code": Brown mixes enough historical fact with his purely fictional tale to craft a mystery far more credible, engaging, and educational than standard thriller fare. From the first mysterious murder in the Louvre to the edge-of-the-seat conclusion, Brown drags us through a couple of centuries while crisscrossing Western Europe with endearing nerd-hero Robert Langdon, the Harvard professor of symbology with the blandness expected of a "Jones" and none of the flair of "Indiana".
So if you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for? The movie? Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy - the written simply word does not get more enjoyable than this.