The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Th Da Vinci Code - I expected to hate it - I actually rather enjoyed it.

The Da Vinci Code – I expected to hate it – I actually rather enjoyed it.

This is one of those books that was so over-hyped at the time of its release, I felt compelled to avoid reading it, thinking it would be too ‘trendy’ and I’d just be jumping on the bandwagon.  However, over the last few years, I’ve been trying to make my way through the BBC Big Read List from 2010 and The Da Vinci Code is on there.  No big deal, there’s plenty of other books on there I’ll never read. But then a friend told me that he’d discovered a love of reading thanks to The Da Vinci Code and I thought what the hell, maybe there’s some merit to it after all.

As it turns out, I quite liked it.  Sure it’s controversial in its subject matter and I can’t really be bothered debating that here.  Conspiracy theories have been rife for the last 2,000 years so I don’t think I’m going to solve anything on this blog.  (For those of you who don’t know – as I didn’t – the conspiracy concerns the nature of the Holy Grail, Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene, whether or not they were married, had a kid and Jesus, was in fact a normal bloke.)

It begins with the murder of Jacques Sauniere by an albino monk.  Who this monk is and who he works for is part of the mystery of the book.  What begins the hunt for the grail is the murder scene, with Sauniere being found in the pose of Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ with a cryptic code by his body.  An expert cryptologist, Sophie Neveu is called in, along with Robert Langdon, an academic symbologist(?) with whom Sauniere had scheduled a meeting.  From here, the mystery unfolds, keeping the reader guessing right until the end.

It’s written in a pulp fiction style, reminiscent of earlier detective novels, which in some parts works really well.  In other parts, it feels as if facts and historical information are clumsily shoe-horned into the story with little relevance.  It’s clear that Brown has researched this topic thoroughly, yet lots of his ‘facts’ are apparently wrong. Perhaps because of the religious themes in this book, this somehow seems to matter, but in reality, this is a work of fiction and should be taken as just that – a story.  And as a story I found it enjoyable, well constructed and rather clever.

Sample Text:

“Every faith in the world is based on fabrication… Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through modern Sunday school… Should we wave a flag and tell the Buddhists that we have proof the Buddha did not come from a lotus blossom? Or that Jesus was not born of a literal virgin birth? Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical.”

Further Reading:

If you like a contemporary mystery story you might like The Shadow Of The Wind

If you like pulp fiction literature you might like The Maltese Falcon

If you like the religious element you might like A Prayer For Owen Meany

The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon.  Pulp fiction at it's best

The Maltese Falcon. A good ol’ dose of pulp fiction.

Private detective Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer are hired by Miss Wonderly to trail a man, Floyd Thursby who has allegedly ran off with their client’s sister.  When Spade receives a phone call informing him that Archer has been killed, and then Thursby also he finds himself the police’s chief suspect.

What ensues is Spade’s attempts to solve this case.  Is Miss Wonderly who she claims to be?  Who was Floyd Thursby really?  Who is Joel Cairo, who arrives in Spade’s office offering $5,000 for the acquisition of a bird figurine? And what is the value of this ‘Maltese falcon’?

I don’t want to spoil the story by discussing any of these questions, but suffice to say, this is a good old-fashioned private detective who-dunnit story.  Ok so the characters are not especially believable, stereo-typed as they are, but that doesn’t matter here, this isn’t supposed to make you think.  There’s no deeper meaning to these characters, it’s all just for entertainment purposes.  And for that, it’s great.

Sample Text:

“Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of
his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were
horizontal. The V motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down–from high flat temples–in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan.”

Further Reading:

If you like the pulp fiction genre you might like The Book With No Name

If you like a who-dunnit you might like The Girl With A Dragon tattoo

If you like a mystery story you might like Rebecca