THE DA VINCI CODE (Robert Langdon #2)

Author: DAN BROWN

Publication:  2004

Genre:  Thriller, Mystery, Conspiracy

Language: English

Tense: Past

Setting Time:  Present day

Setting Places: Paris, Versailles, London, Scotland.

Major Characters: Robert Langdon, Sophie Neveu, Jacques Saunière, Silas, Leigh Teabing

Narrator: Third-person, anonymous, omniscient narrator.

Point of view: The narrator speaks from the point of view of several characters, describing what they see and hear. The narrator also provides background information and pieces of knowledge unknown to other characters.

Theme: Themes of the book are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. The False Conflict between Faith and Knowledge is the main theme of the book intertwined with The Subjectivity of History and The Intelligence of Women.

Book Summary

Louvre curator and Priory of Sion Grand Master Jacques Saunière is fatally shot one night at the museum by an albino Catholic monk named Silas, who is working on behalf of someone he knows only as the Teacher, who wishes to discover the location of the “keystone”, an item crucial to the search for the Holy Grail. After Saunière’s body is discovered in the pose of the Vitruvian Man, the police summon Harvard Professor Robert Langdon, who is in town on business. Police Captain Bezu Fache tells him that he was summoned to help the police decode the cryptic message Saunière left during the final minutes of his life. The message includes a Fibonacci sequence out of order. Langdon explains to Fache that Saunière was a leading authority on the subject of goddess artwork and that the pentacle Saunière drew in his own blood represents an allusion to the goddess and not “devil worship”, as Fache says.

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A police cryptographer, Sophie Neveu, secretly explains to Langdon that she is Saunière’s estranged granddaughter, and that Fache thinks Langdon is the murderer, because her grandfather’s message said “PS Find Robert Langdon”, which she says Fache had erased prior to Langdon’s arrival. Neveu is troubled by memories of her grandfather’s involvement in a secret pagan group. However, she understands that her grandfather intended Langdon to decipher the code, which she and Langdon find leads them to a safe deposit box at the Paris branch of the Depository Bank of Zurich. Neveu and Langdon escape from the police and visit the bank. In the safe deposit box they find the keystone: a cryptex, a cylindrical, hand-held vault with five concentric, rotating dials labeled with letters. When these are lined up correctly, they unlock the device. If the cryptex is forced open, an enclosed vial of vinegar ruptures and dissolves the message inside the cryptex, which was written on papyrus. The box containing the cryptex contains clues to its password.

Langdon and Neveu take the keystone to the house of Langdon’s friend, Sir Leigh Teabing, an expert on the Holy Grail. There, Teabing explains that the Grail is not a cup, but a tomb containing the bones of Mary Magdalene. The trio then flees the country on Teabing’s private plane, on which they conclude that the proper combination of letters spell out Neveu’s given name, “SOFIA.” Opening the cryptex, they discover a smaller cryptex inside it, along with another riddle that ultimately leads the group to the tomb of Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.

During the flight to Britain, Neveu reveals the source of her estrangement from her grandfather, ten years earlier. Arriving home unexpectedly from university, Neveu clandestinely witnesses a spring fertility rite conducted in the secret basement of her grandfather’s country estate. From her hiding place, she is shocked to see her grandfather having sex with a woman at the center of a ritual attended by men and women who are wearing masks and chanting praise to the goddess. She flees the house and breaks off all contact with Saunière. Langdon explains that what she witnessed was an ancient ceremony known as Hieros gamos or “sacred marriage”.

By the time they arrive at Westminster Abbey, Teabing is revealed to be the Teacher for whom Silas is working. Teabing wishes to use the Holy Grail, which he believes is a series of documents establishing that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and bore children, in order to ruin the Vatican. He compels Langdon at gunpoint to solve the second cryptex’s password, which Langdon realizes is “APPLE.” Langdon secretly opens the cryptex and removes its contents before destroying it in front of Teabing. Teabing is arrested by Fache, who by now knows that Langdon was innocent. Bishop Aringarosa, realizing that Silas has been used to murder innocent people, rushes to help the police find him. When the police find Silas hiding in an Opus Dei Center, he assumes that they are there to kill him, and he rushes out, accidentally shooting Bishop Aringarosa. Bishop Aringarosa survives but is informed that Silas was found dead later from a bullet wound.

The final message inside the second keystone leads Neveu and Langdon to Rosslyn Chapel, whose docent turns out to be Neveu’s long-lost brother, whom Neveu had been told died as a child in the car accident that killed her parents. The guardian of Rosslyn Chapel, Marie Chauvel Saint Clair, is Neveu’s long-lost grandmother. It is revealed that Neveu is a descendant of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. The Priory of Sion hid her identity to protect her from possible threats to her life.

The real meaning of the last message is that the Grail is buried beneath the small pyramid directly below the inverted glass pyramid of the Louvre. It also lies beneath the “Rose Line,” an allusion to “Roslyn.” Langdon figures out this final piece to the puzzle in the last pages of the book, but he does not appear inclined to tell anyone about this.

Character List:

Robert Langdon  – The male protagonist of the novel and a professor of symbology at Harvard.

Sophie Neveu  –  A cryptologist with the French Judicial Police, and the female protagonist of the novel.

Jacques Saunière  –  The curator at the Louvre, and Sophie’s grandfather. His murder sets off the chain of events that takes place in the novel.

Silas  –  A monk of Opus Dei, and the murderer of Jacques Saunière. Silas, an albino, is motivated by the rejection and horror he has faced since he was young.

Leigh Teabing –  An historian and the antagonist of the novel. Sir Leigh Teabing is a knight, a Royal Historian, and an extremely wealthy man

Manuel Aringarosa  –  Bishop of Opus Dei.

Sister Sandrine Bieil  –  Nun and keeper of the Church of Saint-Sulpice.

Marie Chauvel  –  Sophie’s grandmother and Saunière’s wife.

Jerome Collet –  An agent with the French Judicial Police.

Simon Edwards  –  The executive services officer of Biggin Hill Airport south of London.

Bezu Fache  –  The captain of the French Judicial Police. Nicknamed “the Bull”.

Jonas Faukman  –  Langdon’s editor. He is a classic New York publishing type.

Pamela Gettum  –  The religious librarian at Kings College

Claude Grouard  –  A security warden at the Louvre.

Rémy Legaludec –  Manservant to Leigh Teabing and participant in the plot to recover the Grail.

André Vernet –  The president of the Paris branch of the Depository Bank of Zurich.

Vittoria  –  A woman in Langdon’s past. She appears only in his memory.

Book Review

This novel starts off with a bang—literally.

Jacques Saunière, the respected curator of the Louvre museum in Paris, is viciously shot by an albino monk looking for a certain mysterious something…something only Saunière and three other men (that have already been offed) could direct him to.

Realizing the secret he and those other men vowed to protect is about to die with him, Saunière scrambles to leave behind a message that can only be understood by very specific people…

(Seriously, with an opening like this it’s no wonder that The Da Vinci Code dominated the bestseller list for two. freaking. years.)

Robert Langdon, a humble but groundbreaking professor of Symbology, gets summoned to a gruesome murder scene in the middle of the night because the DCPJ (basically the French version of the FBI) need his expert opinion. Upon arriving, Langdon is stunned to realize the victim is Jacques Saunière—coincidentally, the very man he was supposed to meet for drinks earlier that night.

Captain Bezu Fache of the DCPJ likes Langdon as the prime suspect in Saunière’s death, and all he needs is an inadvertent confession at the scene of the crime. He’s thwarted in getting one, though, because Sophie Neveu (Saunière’s estranged granddaughter and code-breaker extraordinaire) interrupts the process and cleverly warns Langdon that he’s in serious trouble.

The two of them manage to escape the Louvre without being captured by the police…but not before they discover a series of clues left behind by her grandfather.

From there, Sophie and Langdon are led on a wild quest to find the keystone—a mysterious object that will ultimately lead to the Holy Grail. Turns out Saunière had been the head of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion (say that five times fast) who worship the sacred feminine and protect the secret of the Holy Grail’s true identity and location.

You see, the holy grail’s not a wooden cup like Indy Jones found: it’s actually the bones of Mary Magdalene, and documents that prove she had been the mother of Jesus’s children. (Whoa. That changes everything.) Now it’s up to Sophie and Langdon to unlock his clues in order to discover the secret he’s worked so hard to protect.

Along the way, while dodging capture by the DCPJ and attacks from the albino monk Silas, they enlist the help of the Grail expert Sir Leigh Teabing. Together they decipher Saunière’s riddles and seek out answers all over London on a scavenger hunt to beat all scavenger hunts.

As things develop, it turns out this entire charade has been orchestrated by a shadowy figure known as the Teacher. He’s the one who ordered Silas to kill Saunière, and he’s been pulling the strings with Silas’s mentor—the unfortunate Bishop Aringarosa—as well, who’s a man who is desperate to save his conservative Catholic sect Opus Dei from extinction.

In a twist no one sees coming, we discover—just as Langdon deciphers the final clue—that Teabing is the dastardly Teacher. With the timing of a Swiss watch, Captain Bezu Fache manages to save the day. He’d realized he had the wrong man thanks to a confession from the sheepish Bishop (who’d realized he and Silas had been played), and manages to track down and arrest Teabing just in time.

With their names cleared of any crimes, and the final clue solved, Langdon and Sophie head to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. There they’ll supposedly find the Holy Grail, according to Saunière’s last riddle. Instead, though, they find Sophie’s long-lost grandmother and little brother, who also happen to be direct descendants of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

Sophie’s happy to finally have family (after losing her grandfather, she thought she was totally alone), but Langdon is pretty bummed that he didn’t end up finding the Grail.

Thankfully, Langdon pieces together Saunière’s final clue in a different way, and is struck by the realization that the Holy Grail is actually hidden beneath the Louvre itself.

***

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