A global archive of independent reviews of everything happening from the beginning of the millennium

To send us a review you have written click here

To register FREE as a freelance writer or journalist click here

Read our Copyright Notice click here


Author: Dan Brown


I must confess that I had actively avoided reading Dan Brown's thriller The Da Vinci Code for a long time. The thought of a populist writer weaving a novel out of a subject that I have been interested in for many years filled me with dread.

The turning point for me came when a friend of mine, not known to be an avid reader, rattled through not only this book but a number of other books by the same author in short space of time. The resulting conversations we had about the subject matter lead me to think that if you can generate this much interest then maybe this book cannot be all bad.

The main character is Robert Langdon, who is first introduced to us in Brown's previous novel, Angels and Demons. Langdon is a Harvard academic whose field of expertise is religious symbolism and he is in Paris to meet with the curator of the Louvre, Jacques Saunière. When the later is discovered dead in a ritualistic style killing, with Langdon's details in his appointments diary, the American professor becomes the prime suspect.

Enter Sophie, police cryptologist and granddaughter of the deceased. Instead of trying to aid the police in their attempt to find the evidence with which to frame Langdon, Sophie knows more about the events than meets the eye and helps him escape the clutches of the French police. And so begins their flight through at first the Parisian night, and eventually through Europe, trying to evade police capture whilst at the same time trying to unravel clues as to the real killer.

Before the elderly curator died he lived long enough to leave clues that only his granddaughter would understand, and the breaking of these clues will reveal the real turn of events that lead not only to his death but would have explosive consequences for the Vatican and our whole understanding of Christian history.

Although the book, on the surface at least, seems a standard thriller, the subject matter is well researched and more based on fact that many may realise. Although the ideas presented here may seem like the flights of fancy needed to maintain the impact of the story, much of the detail of the plot, especially the intricacies of religion and history, are based on well established writings. A vast array of what would seem mythical subjects are paraded before the reader - the Holy Grail, Knights Templar, secret Pagan societies, right-wing Vatican enclaves - to name a few, and these all have a basis in the works of respected writers through out history.

Brown has done his homework when researching a suitable background for his thriller. I am not suggesting that the book be taken in any way as factual but I am saying that in the eyes of many academic writers, the tapestry he has set his story against carries a lot of evidence for having a basis in reality.

Those familiar with books such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and The Second Messiah, both controversial books of recent times, will find much familiar here.

By choosing such a subject Brown knows that he will draw a lot of attention. Like they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity and for every objection by devout Catholics, two more broadminded people will buy the book. That is not to imply that there is anything here that Catholics will find offensive - the information Brown draws on is not new - but a book like this will certainly spread those ideas to a wider audience and surely something as transient as a pulp novel is not strong enough to break down the walls of Catholic faith.

There is nothing spectacular in the writing style. It is quick and lacking much depth in its use and form. It is almost as if Brown writes with the idea of a film adaptation from the start and it is easy to see that this book will translate very easily to the big screen and make Brown a very rich man. Descriptively, the book misses a few opportunities to revel in its use of language, being set nonetheless against the backdrop of some of Europe's finest historical monuments and architecture, but the novel is rescued by the complexity and cleverness of its codes and clues, the title of this review being one of them.

It is never going to be a classic book, but the subject matter may turn a few people on to some interesting aspects of European history and religious thought and that in itself is justification for the book's existence. With the right treatment, however, it could make a memorable film but for that we will have to wait a bit longer. Quick and easy to read and containing many clever tricks and turns, if it can make itself shine in front of my cynical eyes then it must be doing something right.