EW review: Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol'

6a00d8341bf6c153ef011570de1436970c-800wiDan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has spawned a raft of imitators, most of which pale in comparison; the latest, The Lost Symbol, is by Brown himself. Once again, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the scene of a gruesome attack, joins forces with an attractive and erudite love interest, and speeds around a world capital chasing clues, solving puzzles, and risking his life while dropping cocktail parties’ worth of scholarly minutiae. Even the setting, though new, will be familiar to most readers: Washington, D.C.

This time, Langdon is lured to the Capitol to save his mentor, Peter Solomon, a prominent member of the Freemasons who’s been kidnapped by a cryptic, heavily tattooed, Homer-reading psycho calling himself Mal’akh — a vicious fellow even less plausible than the albino monk in The Da Vinci Code. Our hero is also in possession of an ancient Masonic artifact whose clues lead him on a treasure hunt to various D.C. tourist spots as he searches for a secret long hidden by the brotherhood.

That secret, of course, is one giant MacGuffin — though Brown is the rare thriller writer who seems to lavish as much attention on the object that sets his plot in motion as he does on the action itself. But for thriller fans, it’s the chase that really matters. Especially since the secrets of Freemasonry just aren’t as compelling as, say, a controversial theory about Mary Magdalene and Jesus.

Luckily, Langdon remains a terrific hero, a bookish intellectual who’s cool in a crisis and quick on his feet, like Ken Jennings with a shot of adrenaline. The codes are intriguing, the settings present often-seen locales in a fresh light, and Brown mostly manages to keep the pages turning — except when one of his know-it-all characters decides to brake the action for another superfluous, if occasionally interesting, historical digression. (Did you know there’s a carving of Darth Vader on the National Cathedral?) Even after the book’s climactic showdown, you must slog through another 50-plus pages of exposition that Brown couldn’t cram into the main narrative. Sometimes it seems that authors, like their villains, don’t know when to leave well enough alone. C+

Comments (43 total) Add your comment
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  • Eli

    hmm, sounds like National Treasure to me. oh, and Darth Vader was placed there in the 80′s. It was a decorative competition.

    • John

      I was thinking about National Treasure, too! Odd that one of the highest profile DaVinci Code knock-offs ended up being knocked-off itself for the sequel.

    • Your mom

      It’s nothing like National Treasure… not a knock off at all. It’s a good read, but not as good as the previous Langdon novels. I would give it a B.

  • Ama

    National treasure was the first thing that came to my mind too.

    I only read The Da Vinci Code because of the controversy and was not blown away. I shall pass on this one.

  • Mandi

    Just finished reading another book The God Machine by JG Sandom that also has the masons. That one was good too.

  • Cookie Nunez

    You guys forgot “Angel’s & Demon’s, now that was a great book!

    • Maserda

      “Angels and Demons”, in my opinion, was much better than “The DaVinci Code”. Didn’t see the movie version though, which is good since I don’t want it to ruin my liking of the book.

      • maripat

        you were wise to make that choice, the book was far and away better than the movie!

    • Yes

      Agreed. That book was amazing. DaVinci doesnt even come close to how fantastic A&D was. Course DaVinci was good but not great. Will read this but will go in with low expectations for sure.

    • frostysnowman

      Angels and Demons was absolutely the superior book when compared to Davinci Code.

      • Mike

        The Dan Brown book I thought was great was “Deception Point” really terrific and not discussed very often.

    • bookfan

      I agree, Angels and Demons was great, but I always said that if Sophie Nuveau and Silas from the Da Vinci Code had been characters in Angels and Demons, it would have been the most kick-*ss book ever!

      • Laura K.

        Deception Point is actually my favorite of Brown’s books. Up until the last thirty pages, I might have put this one second–I appreciated that he restrained most of his usual cliches (there’s not a ridiculously attractive, insanely accomplished character with a two-paragraph description in the bunch, AND Langdon doesn’t sleep with anyone at the end). What irks me about Langdon, though, is that he never seems to grow as a character. He starts every book the same (intellectual, logical, skeptical) and ends every book slightly changed (a little more open to the possibility of something mystical/divine). Wouldn’t you think by the third book, he might be able to at least acknowledge that he’s witnessed some things logic can’t explain and go with the flow a little?

    • Wilson

      Hi Anna, we also love Nick Sharatt's books. They are great fun! I would love it if you lieknd to my Book Sharing Monday.

  • Andrew

    Its not a carving, its a gargoyle.

    • Andrew

      Sorry, I was wrong. Its neither. Its a grotesque.

      • Thom Geier

        Yes, it’s a grotesque, which is a kind of carving or statuary. I felt that too many people would misread “grotesque,” which would be the most technically correct term in this case.

  • Bob

    It’s not a gargoyle, it’s a grotesque.

  • Taylor

    Maybe that is why this book was delayed so long?

    Because it sounds exactly like National Treasure!

  • Windy

    Well I am picking up this book on Friday. Loved A&D and Code , hope I am not disappointed with this one , but sounds like I will be….

    • lajean

      You will be.

  • Monique

    Hmm…having read his other books, I want to guess what the plot of this one will be without having read it yet:

    -Robert and current pretty, intelligent girl find themselves in action and befriend an interesting older man on the way that knows stuff.

    -Old man is the real bad guy and betrays them.

    Hehe, it was pretty much the plot of Angels & Demonds and The DaVinci Code, just with different fillers. Oh, also the same plot (almost) as Digital Fortress.

    His books are entertaining, even if they’re not that good, so I really hope he changes it up in this book.

    If someone who has read this can please tell me if my guess is wrong…

    • Laura K.

      You’ll be surprised. It’s not HUGELY off-formula, but it’s different.

  • arial

    If EW really wants to be taken seriously, please don’t put your book review next to your “must see” moments ad headlined with a photo of Jon and Kate Gosselin! There goes all your credibility! I’ll say more about the book once I’ve read it (just bought it today).

  • Jeff W.

    Why the C+? Most of your review is positive. It’s a mystery worthy of Dan Brown.

    • AJH

      Good question, Jeff W. EW does that often, it seems – write mostly positive review then give a mediocre grade. Oh, well. I can’t wait to read it. Sometimes it’s good to simply be entertained.

  • mark

    im sure this will be good. dan brown knows how to keep the readers attention

  • Magnus

    Fair though flawed entertainment. As a serious critique of Freemasonry, junk. Will be harder to make a good movie of than the two we have, as it’s difficult to take the villain seriously. Also, as pointed out by others here National Treasure has covered too much of this area already. So the movie director will need to take liberties, and an “interpretation” rather than a “rendition” will work best for filming.

  • aldo

    Don’t read this muck. Read ‘The Ghosts of Belfast’ by Stuart Neville. It is brilliant.

  • mark

    dan brown writes the best books

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