Book review

The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown
Bantam Press

The Da Vinci CodeThe Priory Of Sion - a European secret society founded in 1099 - is a real organisation. In 1975 Paris' bibliotheque nationale discovered parchments know as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members including Sir Isaac Newton, Sandro Botticelli, Victor Hugo and Leonardo Da Vinci . . .

Jacques Sauniere, curator of the Louvre, lies murdered in his own museum. Baffled by the ritualistic state in which the dying Sauniere arranged his own body, police-chief Bezu Fache calls in renowned symbologist Robert Langdon, in Paris on business, to explain the elderly man's final actions.
    However, things take a sinister turn as Langdon has been lured to the scene under false pretences. He is implicated in the murder by Sauniere's cryptic messages and by bringing him back to the location of the crime the police believe they can extract a confession. Only with the help of Sauniere's estranged granddaughter, a police cryptologist, does he manage to escape, and fugitive duo instigate a frantic cat and mouse chase through the suburbs of Paris, culminating frantically in London.
    In their flight, the fugitives come to realise Sauniere was involved with the mysterious Priory Of Sion - an organisation charged with protecting a religious relic powerful enough to jeopardise the future of the modern church. In fact, he was the Priory's Grandmaster and his legacy reveals he has prepared an array of clues to trace the most revered artefact in the World . . . The Holy Grail.

In writing this novel, Dan Brown eclipses established thriller writers with a rollercoaster of a story. Stunning riddles, enigmas and endless cryptic messages succeed in breaking the mould of the common thriller to bring us an intelligent, fast-paced romp through 2000 years of Christianity's darker secrets. But in saying this, it is unfair to class this book merely as a thriller. Its many layers incorporate adventure, a lesson in art symbolism, and a grounding in medieval history; but most fascinating are its religious revelations. The most amazing thing about this novel is that it's based on fact.
    Brown's four page chapters create the effect of 'I'll read just one more', making The Da Vinci Code difficult to put down. The characters too, are all three-dimensional and it's hard to place a moral tag - either good or bad - on them until the final pages. This, of course, only adds to the intrigue, which is only clarified in the final pages, where not only Langdon's story, but also those of the minor characters are wrapped up poignantly and satisfyingly.
    All in all, Dan Brown has certainly written the thriller, if not one of the books of the year. The Da Vinci Code is riveting, thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking. Read it as a thriller, read it as a mystery, read it any way you like: Just read it!

:: Jamie Larkin

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