A mysterious clue leading to a series of puzzles; a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing; ancient secrets; mysterious organizations that link past to present—Brown has taken the elements that made The Da Vinci Code a success and reworked them in this long-anticipated sequel. Robert Langdon, the symbologist hero of Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, is lured to Washington, D.C., where he believes he is to give a speech. Instead, he finds that an old friend has been abducted. Only Langdon can unlock the hidden mysteries that can save his friend’s life. Brown combines Freemasons, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Albrecht Durer, and various other ingredients to create a story that could be a mishmash but never quite loses cohesiveness. Readers who found the previous Langdon novels to be excessively wordy and much too slowly paced will level the same criticisms here, and Brown really needs to cool it with the amateurish overuse of exclamation marks, italics, and sentence-ending punctuation like “?!” On the other hand, you can’t deny that he knows how to put together an intriguing, if emotionally uninvolving, story: he keeps us guessing with his riddles and puzzles, and we move through the story in a cantering, orderly fashion. Other writers could have taken this story and really run with it —Matthew Reilly, say, or James Rollins—but fans of the first two Langdon novels will flock to this one and they won’t be disappointed. One final note: Brown may have done himself a slight disservice by setting the novel in Washington: he’s inviting comparison to the lighter, and livelier, National Treasure movies.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, October 2009