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Books 141-142: The Lost Symbol and The Fullicani Manuscript

Book 141: The Lost Symbol
Author: Dan Brown, 2009.
Genre: Conspiracy Thriller.
Other Details: Hardback. 509 pages.

I read this much anticipated third outing for Harvard symbolist Robert Langdon in September a few days after its release. Its plot centres on Washington D.C. and its 'secret history' linked to Freemasonry. Brown also weaves in material on the field of Noetic Science (aka parapsychology) and links with ancient mystery traditions.

The formula is very much the same as in the previous two books as poor ole Robert Langdon is forced to rush around a city, pursued by baddies and maybe-baddies while solving a series of cryptic clues while the clock ticks towards a countdown. Here it is the life of his mentor, Peter Solomon, that is at risk. The pace of the book means that there is little time for character development just non-stop frantic action from start to finish. Although I found myself gripped during the two days it took to read it, on reflection the plot was not as engaging as that of Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Perhaps this was because it was restrained by the central role assigned to the well documented Freemasons over groups such as the Illuminati and Priory of Sion, which allowed for more creative licence.

In so many of the Da Vinci-clones I get the sense that the conspiracy or historical mystery is little more than a hook for the author than a genuine interest, whereas with Brown my impression is that he has a genuine respect for the ancient mystery traditions and has an interest in how these may have been transmitted down the ages. It is quite obvious that Brown holds Freemasonry in high esteem and I am sure that they and the folks over at The Institute of Noetic Sciences were very pleased at the positive publicity they gained with the book's publication as indeed was the Washington D.C. Tourist Board as The Lost Symbol has generated fresh interest in the city's architecture.

Although not great literature I still enjoyed this as a page-turning thriller even if the end felt a bit preachy.

Book 142: The Fulcanelli Manuscript (aka The Alchemist's Secret)
Author: Scott Mariani, 2007
Genre: Conspiracy Thriller
Other Details: Hardback. 224 pages.

Ben Hope had been an elite soldier though now uses his skills to rescue kidnapped children. Then Ben is approached by a millionaire businessman who requests that he trace an ancient lost manuscript whose secret could save a dying girl. Ben soon finds himself on the strangest mission of his life with dangerous enemies in hot pursuit. Ben teams up with Roberta Ryder, a beautiful American scientist, who helps him crack the various codes associated with the quest for the manuscript. The trail leads them from Paris to the ancient Cathar strongholds of the Languedoc, where lies an astonishing secret which has been hidden through the ages.

This was a very quick and easy read. It was a fairly standard thrillerwith an attractive leading man with the usual weight of the world on his shoulders and a strong female lead to match him. There was a fun clash of personalities in the early pages, which made me hope for a love affair. The central baddie was a complete nasty piece of work with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, so no ambiguity there. Maybe overall a little stereotypical but still fun. I was pleased to find Scott Mariani has gone on to write other books with Hope as protagonist. Perfect fare for a little escapism.
Tags: conspiracy fiction, nyt bestseller, occult
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