Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


****The Da Vinci Code

by Dan Brown

Reviewed March 21, 2004.
Doubleday, New York, 2003.  454 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (F BRO).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #1, Mystery and Adventure

I was impressed with this book.  It wasn’t published to wide acclaim, although it certainly looked intriguing.  As the months passed, it got checked out more and more often, and now the only way you can check out a copy is to get on the waiting list.  (I finally put it on my Christmas list, since I figured it was one I and my family would enjoy.)  It’s impressive when a book does so well based on word of mouth.

This book is an action-packed thriller, but it’s also a puzzle, a scavenger hunt through history and art.  I read the first few chapters before going to sleep one night, and the next morning I woke up having dreamed that I was the main character who was under suspicion and needed to escape quickly.  That’s how absorbing the book is.

The book begins with a murder in the Louvre Museum.  The victim is the last keeper of an ancient secret.  He needs to pass on his knowledge in a way that only the proper person will be able to figure it out.  Fortunately, he’s always had a knack for puzzles, and he passed that ability on to his granddaughter.  The book is a long sequence of puzzles, always with the suspense of the main characters being in danger of losing their lives. 

The puzzles are such that readers will be able to solve some of them, or possibly stay slightly ahead of the main characters.  I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book, as the puzzles were clever and intricate and the necessary knowledge was cleverly hidden in the story.  I especially liked the final hiding place, since it was a place I’ve been with my family and particularly noticed.  In fact, we made up a legend about it on the spot, and the second time we were there, guards asked us to move away from it, so perhaps something really is hidden there!

The one thing I really didn’t like about the book was the object of this quest, supposedly involving proof that Jesus was an ordinary man and not God.  Since I do believe that Jesus was God and claimed to be God, this part of the story was hard to swallow.  I don’t think that Jesus’ disciples would have been willing to die for their faith if they had known that the message they preached was different from the one Jesus had taught, so it’s hard for me to attribute the modern Bible to a big rewriting by the church.  Still, however much verisimilitude and historical facts Dan Brown worked into the book, it was only a story, so I was able to set aside this objection and thoroughly enjoy the adventure presented in the book.  This might keep some people from enjoying the story, though.

I would also hate to think that the popularity of this book might spread the idea that the Bible was made up long after the facts it tells about.  Since The Da Vinci Code is fiction, Dan Brown doesn’t mention the other side of the argument—that there is great evidence as to the historicity of the Bible, and great evidence that Jesus did rise from the dead.  The apostles were chosen because they were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection, and all but one died as martyrs because they wouldn’t change their story.  (The other one was exiled to an island until his death.)  A part of the gospel of John was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  I believe it’s been dated to less than a century after the book was written, certainly long before the Council of Nicaea, and the text is not significantly different from the one we use today.   That would definitely argue against it being rewritten by the church later.  Yet the book of John is the gospel that most clearly shows Jesus claiming to be God.

Again, The Da Vinci Code is fiction.  The author did make the conspiracy sound plausible enough to make a great yarn, even if I do think that someone looking thoroughly into the facts would find it unlikely.  It’s a suspenseful adventure with an intriguing and ingenious puzzle, appealing to the mathematical side of my personality while thoroughly entertaining the part that likes stories.  A truly great book.

Review of a book about the facts behind the story:  
Breaking the Da Vinci Code,
by Darrell L. Bock, PhD

Reviews of other books by Dan Brown:
Angels and Demons
The Lost Symbol

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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