BEFORE you read this, you should have taken a glimpse at Dan Browns other novels Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code his previous novel and movie.
At the beginning of THE LOST SYMBOL, Robert Langdon starts a frantic quest for the priestly lore hidden beneath the monuments of Washington DC.
Langdon, having saved the Vatican from a nuclear blast in Angels & Demons, now comes home to give another dreary academic lecture, after which he sprints off to preserve the US government from a revelation that could destabilise the world.
To those familiar with The Da Vinci code, new names are assigned to players as Saunière, the murdered Louvre curator, becomes Peter Solomon, the kidnapped and mutilated CEO of the Smithsonian Institution; Saunière’s granddaughter is matched by Solomon’s sister, recruited as Langdon’s sidekick.
The avenging angel who tracks them is not Silas, the self-flagellating albino monk, but a self-gelding bodybuilder who nicknames himself Moloch, after one of the devils in Paradise Lost.
The Last Supper is replaced as a repository of forbidden knowledge by Dürer’s Melencolia I, and the cryptex designed by Leonardo recurs as an impenetrable granite cube which only spells out the secret it contains when boiled in a pasta pan. Westminster Abbey cedes its role as a sacred site of illumination to Washington National Cathedral, whose sublimity inspires Brown to take inventory of the bells in its carillon and the pipes in its organ (53 and 10,647 respectively). IM Pei’s pyramid in the Louvre courtyard, beneath which Langdon surmises that Mary Magdalen lies buried, is here up-ended as the pyramidal Washington Monument, whose tip contains the paltry solution to the panic that convulses the city.
Every few pages, the plot arrives at a precipice, with a vertiginous drop of a few feet in prospect. ‘”We’ve got a serious problem,” says someone. “What’s in that case?!” asks someone else, with a flurry of superfluous punctuation to denote alarm.
At moments of supreme intensity, Brown relies on italics to carbonate his limp language. Langdon, drowning (not fatally, I’m sorry to say), sees the face of God, and gasps: “Light!” The fallen archangel, returning to Hell in a weird supernatural sally, reports: “I am screaming in infinite terror.”
But that is just the beginning of another Dan brown classic. Read it and you won’t look back.