This is the third of the Robert Langdon novels. I enjoyed Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I’ve probably been a bit slow in getting to this one because of the large number of highly negative reviews it received. However, I spotted it in our local library and decided to give it a go as it would only cost me time – especially as the fourth Robert Langdon novel, Inferno, is now out.
The problem was, at 670 pages, it cost me quite a lot of time that I didn’t feel was well spent.
I found the book had a number of weaknesses. As with the first two, all of the action takes place within considerably less than 24 hours. That can work well, but not when it means that characters subjected to extremes of harrowing torture and mutilation to the very brink of death are rushing around minutes later committing rugby tackles.
Whereas the first two books are set in European locations with history stretching back many hundreds, if not thousands, of years, this is set entirely in Washington and making such a modern city a convincing resting place of hidden ‘Ancient Truths’ is a tough challenge.
All the author manages is an obsession with the rituals of Freemasonry and a seemingly endless listing of Masonic symbols built into Washington’s architecture. Dan Brown (or certainly his main character, Robert Langdon) appears convinced that we should all feel relaxed, even comforted, by the thought that many men in positions of power belong to a secret society. I’m not so sure about that.
Here Langdon is working with the Deputy Director of the CIA to foil the villain’s dastardly plot to cause havoc. When we finally find out just what the plot is, it’s laughable. I can’t be the only one who thought that it would be a good idea if the villain succeeded.
At times the book reads more like non-fiction than a novel, but some of the facts poured out simply aren’t correct – such as ‘sincere’ deriving from the old French ‘sin cerae’ meaning ‘without wax’, when it actually derives from the Latin ‘sincerus’ meaning ‘pure’.
The first two books had been made into successful films (even though the film version of Angels and Demons mangled the storyline) and I was left with the impression that Brown wrote this one with the American film audience in mind – a villain with a lot of visual impact and lots of dramatic shots of well-known Washington landmarks. I haven’t seen the film, but I suspect that it’s more entertaining than the book.
The book is available in various formats from Amazon The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon)