Review

The Lost Symbol

by Dan Brown

I don’t think I can recall a book that has been as widely
and thoroughly anticipated as THE LOST SYMBOL by Dan Brown. I know,
I know…that Potter kid has a lot of fans who stood in line at
midnight for the privilege of being the first on their block to
possess the latest volume. But it has been six years since THE DA
VINCI CODE was published, and folks were overdue for the next
installment. So here it is: the return of Harvard’s own
symbologist Robert Langdon in roughly 500 pages of him in a battle
of wits with a truly deranged villain played out against the
backdrop of Washington, D.C. 

THE LOST SYMBOL takes place over a period of 10 hours or so in
the Washington D.C. area, predominantly downtown. Langdon, being
somewhat unfamiliar with America’s capital, is a fish out of
water. His presence is the result of a request of his old friend,
Peter Solomon, to make a last-minute address at a private gala
presented by the Smithsonian Institution. What begins as an attempt
to help a friend, however, becomes a race against time. Langdon is
forced to follow an enigmatic series of clues to obtain the
solution to a puzzle that is believed to have the power to unleash
a heretofore hidden and closely guarded secret. The guardians of
this secret are the Masons, an order that is both publicly known
and shrouded in mystery.

Langdon follows an ancient, clandestine and bloody trail across
Washington, commencing with a grisly object displayed in the
Capitol Building. While following the clues around the city,
Langdon is pursued by the CIA, who seems bent on stopping him at
any cost. The result is a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse as
Langdon and Solomon’s sister, Katherine, chase down a series
of codes and symbols, some familiar and some going back to the
beginning of recorded history. And the strings of this deadly game
are being pulled by the imposing Mal’akh, a giant demon of a
man who is truly deranged.

Langdon must use all of his skills and knowledge to stop
Mal’akh, prevent the death of his friend, Peter, and
foil a plan that culminates with the toppling of the United States
government. As forces both old and new converge on one of
Washington’s most unusual structures, the fate of many hangs
in the balance as a madman’s carefully calculated plan comes
near success with only Langdon --- in an uneasy partnership with
one of the United States’ most powerful agencies --- standing
in his way.

Has it been worth the wait? Overall, yes. But that’s not
to say that the book is without its shortcomings. For one, THE LOST
SYMBOL could easily have been a hundred pages shorter since it
tends to drag occasionally, usually when Brown shows his research
hand a bit too much. And there is one segment between the climax
and the ultimate conclusion where Brown prattles on a bit too long.
Additionally, there are a couple of points where credibility is
strained, not unlike what one might be inclined to believe watching
an episode of “24.” I’m not sure how some of the
characters couldn’t figure out the identity of Mal’akh,
the imposing and frightening villain of the piece, a bit sooner.
And there are a few moments where injuries are seemingly
healed way too quickly, so everyone can move from a
life-threatening situation to just hours later touring
national monuments without a stop at a medical facility in between
for a few days of rest and relaxation. You'll understand once you
read the book.

But be warned: after reading THE LOST SYMBOL, it will be almost
impossible to resist a long and leisurely trip to Washington, D.C
to visit the places that Brown so skillfully weaves and elegantly
describes throughout his narrative. He clearly did his research,
and he enjoys sharing it with readers. Although he vividly
illustrates both the city and Langdon’s brilliance, the most
riveting character is Mal’akh, who becomes more frightening,
bizarre, and yes, memorable as one delves more deeply into the
novel. And while THE LOST SYMBOL lacks some of the more
controversial aspects of THE DA VINCI CODE (the most powerful group
in the book, the Masons, are portrayed as good fellows here, and
religion in general is attacked half-heartedly when attacked at
all), it is doubtful that you’ll ever look at a dollar bill
or D.C. the same way again.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 6, 2011

The Lost Symbol
by Dan Brown

  • Publication Date: October 19, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 1400079144
  • ISBN-13: 9781400079148