[BOOK REVIEW]Yawns for an overhyped, pedestrian thriller

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[BOOK REVIEW]Yawns for an overhyped, pedestrian thriller

After settling in, finally, to read Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” I began to realize that its main claim to fame was the shock value of its attack on established Christianity. Now of course, if Brown had based his book on “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” rather that on “The Priory of Sion,” the fuss would have been overwhelming.
In short, the book is a rather pedestrian chase thriller, as the protagonists zip around France and Great Britain evading the law and chasing from clue to clue about a 1,700-year-old conspiracy to subvert the true meaning of Jesus’ ministry. The book itself seems to be an expansion of an anecdote told by the book’s heroine, whose grandfather would hide her birthday present and plant a series of clues around the house that she would have to decipher to find the next one, leading her to her gift.
The hype begins with the book’s introduction, in which Brown asserts the historical accuracy of the book’s secret rituals, architectural descriptions and other elements. Those assertions are pretty carefully hedged, but quite a few of them are still wrong. And later, I found that there is already a lively cottage industry on the Internet in “Da Vinci debunkers,” including several speakers who offer to speak to churches and other groups. The gullible are still with us.
I am a fan of cryptography, and the book was advertised as, in part, an exercise in that science by the female protagonist. But the first cryptographic element is a simple pair of anagrams. That’s it. Even Edgar Allen Poe, in “The Gold Bug,” did better than that, and Neal Stephenson, whose weighty tome “Cryptonomicon” will be reviewed here soon, cleverly integrated cryptography into his text.
As a thriller, this book is average at best. It verges often on the pedantic when Brown explains his “feminist divinity Christianity” thesis.
Many of the debunkers have focused on Brown’s historical errors in describing the early Christian Church, but I also snorted at his assertion that any American criminal overseas could escape the local law by fleeing to the nearest U.S. Embassy.
After giggles about that claim subsided, I was treated to a description of a Swiss bank branch in Paris that operated mostly beyond the reach of the French authorities. Talk about bank secrecy!
Yes sir, if Chun Doo Hwan had only known, he could have hidden his stash away forever.

The Da Vinci Code
By Dan Brown
Doubleday & Co.
Barnes & Noble.com price:
$14.97 (hardcover)

by John Hoog
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