The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Da Vinci Code is a 2003 mystery-detective novel by Dan Brown. It follows symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu after a murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris, when they become involved in a battle between the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei over the possibility of Jesus Christ having been married to Mary Magdalene. The title of the novel refers, among other things, to the finding of the first murder victim in the Grand Gallery of the Louvre, naked and posed like Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawing, the Vitruvian Man, with a cryptic message written beside his body and a pentagram drawn on his chest in his own blood.
The novel explores an alternative religious history, whose central plot point is that the Merovingian kings of France were descended from the bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, ideas derived from Clive Prince’s The Templar Revelation (1997) and books by Margaret Starbird. The book also refers to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982) though Dan Brown has stated that it was not used as research material.
The Da Vinci Code provoked a popular interest in speculation concerning the Holy Grail legend and Mary Magdalene’s role in the history of Christianity. The book has, however, been extensively denounced by many Christian denominations as an attack on the Roman Catholic Church, and consistently criticized for its historical and scientific inaccuracies. The novel nonetheless became a worldwide bestseller that sold 80 million copies as of 2009 and has been translated into 44 languages. Combining the detective, thriller and conspiracy fiction genres, it is Brown’s second novel to include the character Robert Langdon: the first was his 2000 novel Angels & Demons. In November 2004, Random House published a Special Illustrated Edition with 160 illustrations. In 2006, a film adaptation was released by Sony’s Columbia Pictures.
Amazon.com Book Description
While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call: the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher. While working to solve the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci — clues visible for all to see — yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.
Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, and learns the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion — an actual secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci, among others.
In a breathless race through Paris, London, and beyond, Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker who seems to anticipate their every move. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory’s ancient secret — and an explosive historical truth — will be lost forever.
The Da Vinci Code heralds the arrival of a new breed of lightning-paced, intelligent thriller…utterly unpredictable right up to its stunning conclusion.
With The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown masterfully concocts an intelligent and lucid thriller that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history.
A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ. The victim is a high-ranking agent of this ancient society who, in the moments before his death, manages to leave gruesome clues at the scene that only his granddaughter, noted cryptographer Sophie Neveu, and Robert Langdon, a famed symbologist, can untangle. The duo become both suspects and detectives searching for not only Neveu’s grandfather’s murderer but also the stunning secret of the ages he was charged to protect. Mere steps ahead of the authorities and the deadly competition, the mystery leads Neveu and Langdon on a breathless flight through France, England, and history itself. Brown (Angels and Demons) has created a page-turning thriller that also provides an amazing interpretation of Western history. Brown’s hero and heroine embark on a lofty and intriguing exploration of some of Western culture’s greatest mysteries–from the nature of the Mona Lisa’s smile to the secret of the Holy Grail. Though some will quibble with the veracity of Brown’s conjectures, therein lies the fun. The Da Vinci Code is an enthralling read that provides rich food for thought. –Jeremy Pugh
From Publishers Weekly
Brown’s latest thriller (after Angels and Demons)is an exhaustively researched page-turner about secret religious societies, ancient coverups and savage vengeance. The action kicks off in modern-day Paris with the murder of the Louvre’s chief curator, whose body is found laid out in symbolic repose at the foot of the Mona Lisa. Seizing control of the case are Sophie Neveu, a lovely French police cryptologist, and Harvard symbol expert Robert Langdon, reprising his role from Brown’s last book. The two find several puzzling codes at the murder scene, all of which form a treasure map to the fabled Holy Grail. As their search moves from France to England, Neveu and Langdon are confounded by two mysterious groups-the legendary Priory of Sion, a nearly 1,000-year-old secret society whose members have included Botticelli and Isaac Newton, and the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei. Both have their own reasons for wanting to ensure that the Grail isn’t found. Brown sometimes ladles out too much religious history at the expense of pacing, and Langdon is a hero in desperate need of more chutzpah. Still, Brown has assembled a whopper of a plot that will please both conspiracy buffs and thriller addicts.
Review: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – The Guardian
The conspiracy thriller, it can be argued, is the purest kind of bestseller. The premise of such books is that there’s no such thing as a random happening; meanwhile, though bestsellers aren’t exactly conspiracies, most huge publishing successes can be traced back to a web of connected events, so that form and content collide to an unusual degree.
For example, Peter Benchley’s Jaws was probably a good enough story to find readers at any time, but became a mid-70s sensation because the implications of the plot – horrible, sudden death in a holiday resort – reflected the neuroses of an affluent American generation enduring both a cold war and an oil war. Helen Fielding spotted that young unmarrieds were a social grouping without a literature; Allison Pearson noticed the same gap for working mums.
And coming up to two years after September 11, 2001 – roughly the time it takes conventional fiction publishing to respond to cultural shifts – what did we find unstoppably atop the American fiction charts? Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, 450 pages of irritatingly gripping tosh, offers terrified and vengeful Americans a hidden pattern in the world’s confusions.
When bad things happen, Brown reassures us, it is probably because of the machinations of a 1,000-year-old secret society which is quietly running the world, though often in conflict with another hidden organisation. There are probably a couple of verses in Nostradamus predicting the triumph of The Da Vinci Code: “As the painted French woman smiles/The Brown man will top the heap”, or something similar. Certainly, the novel’s success can be attributed to those who read Nostradamus and believe that the smoke from the blazing twin towers formed the face of the devil or Osama bin Laden.
What happens in The Da Vinci Code is … alert readers will have noticed a delay in getting round to plot summary, but it takes time to force the face straight. Anyway, my lips are now level, so let’s go. Art expert Jacques Sauniere is discovered murdered in the Louvre, having somehow found the strength in his last haemorrhaging moments to arrange his body in the shape of a famous artwork and leave a series of codes around the building.
These altruistic clues are interpreted by Robert Langdon, an American “professor of religious symbology” who, by chance, is visiting Paris, and Sophie Neveu, a French “cryptologist” who is the granddaughter of the artistic cadaver in the Louvre.
As they joust with authorial research – about the divine proportion in nature and the possibility that the Mona Lisa is a painting of Leonardo himself in drag – a thug from the secretive Catholic organisation Opus Dei, under orders from a sinister bishop, is also trying to understand the meaning of the imaginative corpse in the museum.
It all seems to be connected with the Priory of Sion, a secret society. Reading a book of this kind is rather like going to the doctor for the results of tests. You desperately want to know the outcome but have a sickening feeling about what it might prove to be. In this case, the answer was as bad as I’d feared.
Recently, crime and thriller fiction has been increasingly easy to defend against literary snobs at the level of the sentence. Not here. Brown keeps lugging in nuggets from his library: “Nowadays, few people realised that the four-year schedule of modern Olympic Games still followed the cycles of Venus.” Otherwise, he favours clunking, one-line plot-quickeners: “Andorra, he thought, feeling his muscles tighten.” French characters speak in American, while occasionally throwing in a “précisement” to flap their passport at us.
Criticism won’t hurt Brown, who can probably now buy an island with his royalties and a second one with the film rights. The author has, though, recently found himself on the end of an unwanted conspiracy theory: another writer has accused him of plagiarism. In strongly denying this, Brown employed a striking defence: that the points of overlap were clichés which were part of the genre of the thriller and therefore belonged to no one writer.
This admission of unoriginality may further anger readers and writers annoyed by seeing something as preposterous and sloppy (one terrible howler involves the European passport system) as The Da Vinci Code on its way to selling millions. But the success of this book is due not to the writing but to post-9/11 therapy. It tells so many Americans what they want to hear: that everything is meant. In doing so, Brown has cracked the bestseller code.
Mark Lawson’s novel Going Out Live is published by Picador.
About the Author
Dan Brown is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code and, previously, Digital Fortress, Deception Point, and Angels and Demons. He is a graduate of Amherst College and Phillips Exeter Academy, where he spent time as an English teacher before turning his efforts fully to writing. He lives in New England with his wife.