This book is hugely popular - at the time of this review, it has
been on the best seller list for 60+ weeks. I had previously read Dan Brown's Angels
and Demons (I couldn't get a copy of Da Vinci code from the library, so I read Brown's
earlier work) and found it totally unbelievable and absurd. Was Da Vinci code more of
the same nonsense, or did Brown improve? Everybody loved this book, so I gave it a try.
It certainly is a fast read.
The Da Vinci Code is indeed a better book than Angels and Demons,
but Angels and Demons is so bad it would go straight to Mystery Science Theater 3000 if
it were made into a movie. The Da Vinci code could be made into nice summer movie, and
no doubt it soon will be. Unfortunately, there is still a TREMENDOUS number of coincidences
that are required for the story to work. Nor is it particularly suspenseful. And wouldn't
it be nice if Robert Langdon, the hero, were to make a bad guess once in awhile? After
all, he is operating on no sleep and under extreme stress, yet he is able to figure out
clues without fail.
One of the major clues is sealed in a container with a vial of
vinegar. If the container is broken without solving the puzzle, the vinegar will dissolve
the clue, and all will be lost. It made me wonder - couldn't they just freeze the
container? The vinegar will crystallize, and then they could smash the container open.
Forget all this clue stuff - use brute force!
Another problem is that the puzzles that start this novel are all
arranged by a dying man. A bullet hole in his gut, 15 minutes to live, yet he seemingly
scurries all over the Louvre in the last minutes of his life, inventing and placing
ingenious clues even has he gasps his last. Do you remember the funny scene in the Naked Gun
when O.J. Simpson gets shot in the stomach (this was filmed before O.J. turned into a
murderer)? O.J. is hit in the stomach and recoils - and burns his hands on the stove and
then bumps his head, gets a window to slam down on his fingers, etc. It is hilarious - and
when we finally see O.J. in the hospital in the next scene, his hands, head, etc are all
bandaged - everything EXCEPT his stomach where he was shot. The Da Vinci code has that
same sense of silliness - the museum curator is shot in the stomach, yet he runs all around
the museum making clues - we of course don't see him actually leaving the clues, because
we would laugh just like we laughed at the Naked Gun. When they make a movie out of this
book, they will have to leave out the dying museum curator.
And when the museum curator does finally expire way down the hall
from the Mona Lisa, where was he headed?
Brown likes to write short chapters, and each brief chapter (there
are 105 chapters in a book with 450 pages) ends in a cliff-hanger. This gets annoying,
it is like reading a Hardy Boys mystery. Brown deliberately manipulates the reader to
keep the pages turning. This is an old trick by writers to hold the reader's interest,
but in a book with so many chapters, many of the cliff-hangers are not suspenseful or
amazing, but annoying. The manipulation gets too blatant.
Why then, does this book even merit 2 stars? It is a quick read,
and Brown has concocted a nice bunch of puzzles. The plot itself is no better than a
Nancy Drew mystery, but Brown has invented some ingenious clues and solutions. I don't
know anything about the Holy Grail or ancient church history, but Brown presents some
ideas that are intriguing. I hope they make a nice movie out of this one...