by Sharon Tucker
I read Dan Brown’s books. It feels like a guilty secret but it isn’t, really. Let me tell you why.
For me, like most of us, it began in 2003 with publication of The Davinci Code. Brown had previously published books in the genre, but he was not well-known and then came the media frenzy prior to DVC’s debut. Readers were titillated with the novel’s focus on religious and artistic controversies. We were also promised a breakneck dash through exciting cities in Europe just ahead of the police–and even a sinister albino hit man. Add a clear, uncluttered prose style and Bingo!
The fact is, Brown delivered on all the promises of the book’s hype. The Davinci Code was a fun read. Too, his readers were exposed not only to Italian Renaissance art and artifacts, but also to conspiracy theories most of us had missed reading about in history classes (possibly for good reason, some of you may say.) How many of us found ourselves backtracking to read Brown’s earlier Langdon adventure, Angels and Demons? I did. I also enjoyed The Lost Symbol, in which Langdon came to Washington D.C. to stop a deadly plot involving freemasonry.
With Inferno, Langdon’s latest adventure, we travel with him to Florence where he wakes up in a hospital, finding his short term memory gone. The adventure begins with his attempted murder there in the hospital, so he is whisked away to temporary safety by a beautiful attending physician–oh yes, I forgot to mention that Langdon always has a beautiful woman either in tow or leading him on, which adds even more spice in the mix!
We soon find that the Italian medieval poet, Dante Alighieri, is the basis of Inferno’s plot. Langdon and Dr. Sienna Brooks are literally off and running to decipher clues Langdon finds in the small metal canister marked BIOHAZARD which they’ve found sewn into the lining of his jacket. Of course, they open the canister. Hidden inside is a medieval bone cylinder, much like a laser pointer that projects an image of Botticelli’s “Map of Hell” and further examination of this map reveals clues leading them to seek out art works associated with The Inferno , the first part of Dante’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy.
This map and subsequent clues hidden in painting, statuary, and even Dante’s death mask lead Langdon and Brooks on a frantic chase from Florence to Venice to Istanbul in an effort to forestall the letting loose of a new strain of plague engineered to decimate the planet. Langdon and Brooks rush, evading not only the police and the World Health Organization, but also operatives of The Consortium, a sinister organization on the course of unwittingly bringing on world destruction.
Brown’s adventures involving his likeable and attractive protagonist Robert Langdon have an exciting formula that works. Note that Professor Langdon doesn’t flounder in the rather dull discipline of Semiotics which is the authentic academic study of signs and sign processes. Instead, Langdon gets to romp in Brown’s created field of study, Symbology, which plays with artistic and religious symbols in history. Langdon carries the reader along with him–playing a bit and learning a bit. Throw in some conspiracy theories that sound familiar and a pretty girl or two and you are in for a good time.
Remember the idea of “fun” mentioned earlier? Obviously, these novels are meant to entertain and Brown has found a genre formula that millions of us love to read. To forget that Brown’s novels are intended as fun reads is to impart unmerited seriousness to them. So play a bit and be forgiving when the prose in the later novels isn’t quite as tight and headlong as that of The Davinci Code. They’re still good reads.
Don’t hate Dan Brown because he is hot!
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