The Lost Symbol
The Lost Symbol isn’t my first book by Dan Brown, but I’m pretty sure it will be my last. I don’t really think any of his books hold up to close scrutiny, but in the past I’ve found them entertaining in an exciting, page-turner kind of way. I picked this up hoping for more of the same, and received an unexciting and unbelievable tour through the landmarks of Washington, D.C. with a pedantic hero and an anticlimactic ending that left me thinking, “Really? That’s it?” Not exactly a stunning endorsement.
Our hero is Robert Langdon, Harvard symbologist, who is already familiar to those who have read The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons. As the book opens he’s come to Washington at the request of his longtime friend and mentor Peter. Things take a dangerous and intriguing turn when he arrives at the capitol and guards discover a severed human hand pointing toward the ceiling. Robert is on the scene, and recognizes the large, distinctive masonic ring on the hand: Both hand and ring belong to Peter. The hand is in fact an invitation for Robert to unravel the mysteries of freemasonry, and hopefully save Peter’s life in the process.
Peter’s sister Katherine also figures in the mystery and chase for truth. She’s a cutting edge scientist working at a top secret lab in the Smithsonian in the field of noetic science (a science that apparently explores the mind/body connection). While Robert is arriving in the city and discovering Peter’s hand, she’s at work in her lab with her assistant. She receives a text from Peter telling her he is coming to the lab with his friend/doctor, a man she met earlier in the day. Peter has in fact never texted before – ever. But although Katherine is smart enough to figure out how to weigh a human soul, she is naive enough to take a text from a man who has never texted before at face value, even though her precious research could be a risk. She lets him into her lab, where he kills her assistant and torches the place. Katherine barely escapes with her life and meets Robert at the library of congress, where they commence their little quest together. They need to solve the mysteries of a pyramid and its capstone while eluding the CIA (sometimes) so they can save Peter, national security, and maybe even the world.
Basically, the story involves Robert and Katherine landmark hopping through DC as they are aided by powerful people who help them further on their path to enlightenment. The CIA appears to be against them, then with them. And they are battling a strange, tattooed eunuch who wants to discover the same secrets and use them to destroy the masons. And maybe the world too, although I really didn’t see how.
So, the pros: Toward the end, the book is momentarily exciting. Robert and Katherine are trapped by the villain! He’s evil! He kills people! People are depending on them! Robert has to solve the mystery once and for all or the villain will drown him!
And the cons: Well, that’s everything else.
To be fair, part of my issue was that I was not particularly excited by the masons or their secrets, and I didn’t believe any of it or care whether the whole world heard about the bizarre rituals. The “I’m in, you’re out” feeling of these types of organizations really leaves me cold, and reminds me of 1) elementary schoolgirls forming friendship clubs and 2) the Stonecutter episode of The Simpsons.
I have friends that I like and respect who really enjoyed this book. And while I still like them, I really think I’m done with Dan Brown. I think even if you’re a huge fan, you’d find this ending of this one a let-down.