Book Review — Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”

Last week I finished reading The Da Vinci Code, the second story in the Robert Langdon series of novels by author Dan Brown.  I finished reading it right before Easter.

Taking place about a year after the events in Angels & DemonsThe Da Vinci Code begins with the sudden murder of a museum curator in Paris, France.  Specifically, the man murdered was Jacques Sauniere, the curator of the Louvre.  He was shot in the abdomen by Silas, an albino Catholic monk.  Before succumbing to death, Jacques positioned himself in a unique position designed to get the right kind of attention.  He also left behind a note that included the line, “P.S. find Robert Langdon.”

Dan Brown — The Da Vinci Code

Thankfully, art historian and religious expert Robert Langdon is in Paris on a speaking tour, and that very evening he was scheduled to meet with Jacques, although Langdon didn’t know the specific reason why Jacques wanted to meet with him.  He presumed it had to do with a new book that he was getting ready to publish.

Anyway, the French police quickly locate Langdon in a nearby hotel, and he’s taken to the Louvre to help examine the uniquely positioned body of the late museum curator.  The police show him that Jacques also left behind other notes as well as a sequence of numbers.  What it all means though is rather puzzling.

Police cryptographer Sophie Neveu arrives and she secretly tells Langdon that his life is in danger.  She helps him ditch the police and sends them on a wild goose chase, allowing Sophie and Langdon privacy to examine the crime scene.  It turns out that not only is Jacques Sophie’s estranged grandfather, but he was also the leader of a secret society.  On top of that, he was known for his puzzles and riddles, and he frequently used words and phrases with double meanings.

The two of them realize that Jacques positioned himself just like the Vitruvian Man, one of Leonardo da Vinci‘s famous works of art.  The sequence is numbers is actually the Fibonacci sequence, but written down out of order.  This gives them a clue that the other part of Jacques’s message is an anagram.  They quickly figure out that Sophie’s grandfather wants them to go to the Mona Lisa to find the next clue.  Thankfully, that painting is nearby in the museum.

Hidden in the room with the Mona Lisa is a special key that leads them to a safe deposit box in a nearby Depository Bank of Zurich.  With the police hot on their heels, Robert and Sophie use the Fibonacci number sequence to figure out Jacques’s account number, and they gain access to his safe deposit box.  Inside of it is a cryptex holding the next clue.

The general theory is that these clues will lead them to Jacques’s closely guarded secret, a secret that Langdon believes to be the Holy Grail itself.  To help unlock the cryptex, Langdon seeks the help of his old friend and Holy Grail expert, Sir Leigh Teabing.  It’s discovered that the box holding the cryptex has the clue to opening it, and the answer ultimately was an alternate spelling of Sophie’s name — S-O-F-I-A.

In the meantime, Silas, acting under the instructions from the “Teacher”, also pursues Langdon and Sophie.  He catches up with them at Teabing’s house, but his ambush is foiled and the group captures Silas, holding him prisoner until they know what to do next.

The next clue points them to London, England, and Teabing helps them escape from the police and flee to England.  They take Silas with them on board Teabing’s private jet.  However, after they arrive in England and head out to look in a church for the next clue, Silas escapes with the aide of Teabing’s servant.  The two of them then steal the cryptex and flee the church.

Robert and Sophie are separated from Teabing.  They go to a library, and with the help of a researcher, they learn that the next clue is actually pointing to Sir Isaac Newtown‘s tomb in Westminister Abbey.  The two of them go there, but they’re confronted by Teabing who is actually the mysterious Teacher who had been guiding Silas.  Teabing is after the Holy Grail so that he can reveal its true secrets and use it against the Vatican.

Langdon figures out the last password to open the cryptex and secretly opens it himself.  He then fools Teabing and tosses the empty cryptex into the air, causing him to drop his gun so that he can catch it.  Teabing is than held captive until the police rush in and arrest him.

Meanwhile, Silas is hiding out in London when the police raid the building and try to capture him.  Silas escapes but is shot in the process.  He also accidentally shoots his mentor, Bishop Aringarosa, the bishop who helped Silas many years ago.  Bishop Aringarosa survives, but Silas later dies from his gunshot wound.

The final clue in the cryptex takes Robert and Sophie to the Rosslyn Chapel, a church believed by many people to be the true hiding place for the Holy Grail.  There, it’s discovered that the docent running the place is actually Sophie’s long-lost brother, and his grandmother is really hers as well.

All Sophie knew of her family was that her parents and brother were killed in a car accident when she was a young girl.  Her grandfather took care of her, and the two of them were close until one day when Sophie witnessed her grandfather engaged in a bizarre sexual ritual with a secret society.  They haven’t spoken since that point.  Sophie learns that she and her brother were separated after their parents were killed in the car accident.  Her grandfather knew that it was an intentional wreck, and he had to hide Sophie and her brother by keeping them separated.

The truth is finally revealed and Sophie cannot believe that she has a family again.  On top of that, she and her brother are descendants and have family history that can be traced all the way back to Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

Unfortunately for Langdon, the Holy Grail is not hiding there in the Rosslyn Chapel.  Sophie’s grandmother looks at the last clue and is amused by Jacques’s humor.  She gives Langdon a hint, but doesn’t reveal the true hiding place.

Langdon returns to Paris to continue his speaking tour for his new book.  At night he realizes that “Rosslyn” in the last clue could also be viewed as “Rose Line,” as in the original Prime Meridian, which happened to be located right there in Paris.  He goes outside and follows the Rose Line all the way back to the Louvre.  He goes inside and realizes that the Holy Grail had been hidden there the whole time underneath the inverted pyramid, all under the watchful eyes of museum curator Jacques Sauniere.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Is Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code any good?

Yes, I enjoyed reading this book.  While it was a little too coincidental that Robert and Sophie were able to find and solve all of the clues (and, thus, save one of the biggest secrets in mankind), parts of the book were quite fascinating, especially with Da Vinci’s artwork as well as the Holy Grail.

The chapters are short, and most of the book moves at a fast pace.  It’s easy to keep turning the pages as the gang discovers how to solve each clue, bringing them another step closer to the prize.  The history of the Catholic Church was very interesting as well.

The question is, did Sophie’s grandmother also know of the Holy Grail’s secret?  Or was it just her grandfather?

Jacques was part of an extremely secretive society that hid the absolute best secrets (i.e. the Holy Grail) for the few people at the very top.  Knowing that, would he have trusted her with that knowledge as well, just in case he suddenly died without passing on the secret to another trusted member in his society?

If he did tell her, then the events in this story don’t matter.  The secret would have still been in a very safe possession.  We know it was safe because nothing happened to her or her grandson.  Teabing could have tried prying her for information a long time ago.  But if he did NOT tell her the secrets, then it’s too much of a coincidence that Robert and Sophie were able to not only locate, but solve all of the clues while being pursued by a deadly murderer (and the police, but Jacques probably didn’t plan for that to be a factor).

That being said, The Da Vinci Code is a cross between being possibly irrelevant or too coincidental.

Overall, the book is still very interesting, and it’s an enjoyable read.

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